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Post More on Tanks: Russian vs Western
Created by John Eipper on 01/24/23 8:10 AM

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More on Tanks: Russian vs Western (Anthony J Candil, USA, 01/24/23 8:10 am)

As usual my compliments to Cameron Sawyer for his comments on Russian armaments. Well written and well said. Cameron belongs to our Cavalry brotherhood.

One clarification on tank ammunition. I didn't want to give all the technical denominations of tank rounds, as I did not think it would interest most WAISers.

The difference in caliber regarding Western and Soviet/Russian tank guns is irrelevant (125 mm vs 120 mm), and it has been always a trend in Russian gun developments to seek the bigger gun: Russian 45 mm vs Western 37 mm, 100 mm vs 90 mm, 115 mm vs 105 mm, and now 125 mm vs 120 mm. But it doesn't make much difference in effectiveness.

Nevertheless, on the autoloader issue I have to disagree a little bit with Cameron, based on my own experience. I have seen and used the autoloader of both the T-62 (the first Soviet tank that used it) and T-72, and they are very unreliable and prone to create accidents within the turret, even severing the arm of a crewman once. The reason we don't use autoloaders in the West is precisely the size and weight of the rounds that require a system with no failures at all, and perfect alignment, especially while in motion and cross-country, something very difficult to achieve. I imagine the autoloaders on the T-80 and T-90 are now much better, but I still wouldn't trust them too much.

In Iraq, our crews performed much better than the Iraqi T-72s, whose autoloaders were constantly jammed. In our Abrams, we manage to shoot 8 rounds per minute. I haven't heard of such a rate of fire on any Russian tank especially with autoloading.

The so-called Russian innovations and originality are in doubt when we scrutinize them. Even the Russian T-34 owed the idea of tracks and suspension to the American engineer Walter Christie, who designed this system in the 1930s. The initial T-26 tanks were a British design from Vickers. On the other hand the Soviets learned much from the Germans on the joint tank school they set up in the mid 1920s in Kazan. Marshal Tukhachevsky's ideas were in reality based on Liddell Hart and Fuller's thoughts of the 1930s.

On the issue of the tanks being obsolete, you know my view. Not at all. They are simply becoming more sophisticated, better and more lethal. John won't like to be seating inside a tank, and I understand, but believe me you won't like to be outside on your own either.

On the nonsense of Ukraine being provided with Western tanks: they will do much better with Russian tanks than with Western tanks. Now we hear that France is also considering providing Ukraine with the Leclerc.  It is the worst tank the West and not even the French soldiers like it.

JE comments:  Anthony, your expertise here is certainly of interest to one WAISer (me).  I always wanted to have a turn at the controls of a tank, but only in a peaceful, controlled environment.  I just fear I'd look silly, and people would compare me to Michael Dukakis.

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  • Target Practice in Mongolia (from Edward Mears) (John Eipper, USA 01/25/23 2:50 AM)
    Edward Mears writes:

    In 2008, during my second year on the JET Program in Saga, Japan, one of the perks of the program was that we had lengthy holidays around the New Year and over the summer.

    I had been in touch with one of my friends from high school who was teaching English in Mongolia, and we had talked about meeting up. Just before my winter holiday that year I checked the flights to Ulaanbaatar from Fukuoka and was surprised at the very low rates--I think it was around 400 dollars US round trip. Transiting through Seoul, I quickly found out why the tickets were so cheap.  No one goes to visit Mongolia in the dead of winter, when temperatures can reach -40 Celsius or lower.

    Ulaanbaatar in the winter is rather bleak--thanks to the frigid temperatures and limited daylight hours, the streets were mostly desolate and many of the businesses that catered to the summer crowds coming to see the naadam and eagle festivals close up shop for winter. This left us with little to do during my stay other than explore the few museums in UB that were open, eat fried lamb and drink lots of vodka. On one of the days I ventured out alone, I remember queuing in a small convenience store to purchase some water or whatever the Gatorade equivalent was in Mongolia, to keep in my backpack as I darted in and out of some shops and museums. This must have been around 7am or so and I was struck by the line in front of me at the register: six or seven Mongolian men who each had bottles of vodka in their baskets and nothing else. I recall thinking this was a rather sad sight until later that day when I reached into my backpack to grab my water and found it was frozen solid. My friend later explained that among the many "benefits" of vodka, the fact that it will not freeze solid during the harsh Mongolian winters is of critical importance.

    Anyway, we both became bored with UB fairly quickly, and while out one night with one of my friend's colleagues from the English school he worked at, one of them suggested that we take a trip out to one of the Ger camps on the Mongolian steppe far from UB to experience "authentic" Mongolian culture. My friend knew a tour guide who arranged an early morning car ride out somewhere northeast of Mongolia. The car ride took three hours and I was struck by how there was absolutely nothing once outside of UB--just the road and the flat grey mass of the Mongolian steppe.  There were no trees or other wildlife and certainly no signs of civilization save for a few Ger camps we spotted along the way. After one of the most boring car rides I can recall, we arrived at our destination and were served tea inside a traditional Mongolian Ger--a circular tent that the nomadic Mongolians can pack up easily and move from place to place. I remember stepping out of the car upon arrival and feeling the water on my eyeballs start to freeze over--the temperature there was even colder than in UB--an incredibly strange sensation that I will never forget (the key to keeping your eyes moist and not frozen was to blink faster than usual). Thankfully Mongolian Gers are incredibly well-insulated and once inside we warmed up rather quickly--the tea and vodka that our hosts shared with us also helped. After a quick history lesson on the Ger tents and the nomadic lifestyle, our hosts asked us if we were interested in shooting some weapons.

    Our eyes lit up as they brought us to a separate "facility" behind the main tent where they had an entire cache of old Soviet weaponry, including numerous AK-47s, pistols, sniper rifles, hand grenades, land mines and even a Gatling gun that was mounted on a wagon. For a fee, all of these weapons could be fired on their "range," which was just the expanse of the Mongolian steppe behind the Ger tent. They had a collection of old beat-up cars that one could shoot at, though they motioned to us to please not fire towards any of the free-roaming horses that were milling about in the distance. We chose to shoot the AK-47 and an RPG. I had fired a few small arms at camps growing up in Michigan (mostly .22 rifles), but was not ready for the serious upgrade in firepower of an AK-47, which nearly dislocated my shoulder when I began firing it for the first time. I recall it being very, very loud--almost painful to my ears. By the end of the magazine I became a bit more comfortable with it and was able to steady my aim on the targets that had been set up. Next was the RPG, which our hosts instructed us to aim at the ground just in front of some of the old beat-up cars that littered around the range. Not knowing how old these rockets were and how they were maintained, I encouraged my friend to be the first to shoot. There was no instruction--just point and shoot, as our guide pantomimed to us (these guys did not speak English). My friend ended up missing the car and the rocket exploded on the ground harmlessly about 100 meters in front of us. Conditioned by a lifetime of Hollywood films, I was expecting a big fireball explosion and was surprised when the "explosion" was relatively small and devoid of fire--just a big cloud of dirt and ice being kicked up from the frozen ground. I shot second, and after getting on one knee and having the rocket loaded on the launcher, I braced for what I thought would be tremendous kickback based on my earlier experience with the AK-47. I did not realize, however, that unlike the AK-47 bullets, the rocket was self-propelled and there was hardly any kickback--just the loud scream of the rocket and a trail of smoke that obscured my target. Having braced too hard and surprised by the lack of pushback, I fell forward after the rocket launched so I did not see the actual impact but heard the cheers of our hosts nearby.  I looked back at the range and saw that my rocket had hit and blown the door off a rusted Honda Civic.

    After we finished with the RPG, our hosts brought us to another part of the range where they had a fully functional T-72 tank. For a fee, we could get in and actually drive the tank around a small course they had built. They said they did not have any of the ammunition on hand so we were unable to ascertain the firing rate of the auto loader. I'll report back next time I come across Soviet tanks in the wild and settle this WAIS controversy once and for all. Unfortunately our hosts could not get the T-72 started--perhaps due to the frigid temperature but I am not quite sure.  So we had to be contented with just hopping in the tank and having our pictures taken in the cockpit, which was still a thrill. We drove back to UB later that night and I returned to Japan shortly thereafter. Unfortunately my camera was either lost or stolen during my last few hours in the country and I do not have any of the pictures from that excursion.

    I am still quite sad that I don't have those photos or the video of my RPG success.

    JE comments:  Eddie, your post is definitely the most bizarre travelogue of the New Year!  What a fascinating adventure, despite the ungodly cold.  Regarding tanks, one of the most useful features of the T-34 was its compressed-air starter, which enabled it to fire up in the dead of a Russian winter.  Does the T-72 have the same feature?  Apparently it does; listen to the whistling air in the following video.  Your Mongolian hosts must have neglected the maintenance of their "pet" T-72.

    T-72 V12 Diesel Engine start after 10 years SOUND PANZER FARM - YouTube

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  • Germany to Send Leopards to Ukraine (Consoly Leon Arias, Spain / Canary 01/26/23 4:55 AM)
    One of the reasons given by the Ukrainian President for demanding the German Leopard tanks is the alleged counter-offensive that Ukraine is preparing for the spring, as well as to maintain resistance in the siege of Bakhmut.

    After the pressure received by other allied members, Germany has decided to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks, which the armies of countries such as Spain, the Scandinavian countries and the Germans themselves operate.

    This decision was made in exchange for the Biden administration also sending its Abrams armored vehicles, in addition to the Challenger 2, which the British Prime Minister has promised.

    In addition to these two initiatives, Morocco will also send some twenty T-72Bs to Ukraine. This gesture is tantamount to a public condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine, after eleven months of silence. The delay was no doubt motivated by a desire not to damage relations with Moscow.

    Morocco, the main US ally in North Africa, has also been forced to make this decision after being subjected to "pressure" from the US government. In return for sending its Soviet-era T-72Bs, the US will reward the Moroccan gesture, probably with Abrams tanks.

    Naturally, this does not mean that they will be the same armored vehicles the US Armored Weapon currently operates.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently encouraged partner countries to train Ukrainian soldiers in the handling of the armored vehicles, stressing their importance either to repel Russian attacks or to enable Ukraine to regain its previous status quo.

    Naturally, and although the purpose is what we would all wish, the reality of the moment seems to indicate that this is a far-fetched idea, since according to our colleague Tony Candil, an expert in these matters, it is impossible to train in a few days the crew of any tank, regardless of whether they are Leopard, Leclerc, Abrams or Challenger.

    Thus, the doubts shown by Germany has highlighted the existing discrepancies between the different allied countries, and Germany's mistrust when observing how the Russians continue to advance in Ukraine.

    Yet Germany is probably the country that best knows Russia's foreign strategies, and therefore fears its retaliation, if Europe and NATO finally confront each other with their respective battle tanks in a hypothetical confrontation on Ukrainian soil.

    These days in Germany, there is uncertainty about the final destination of the weapons sent to Ukraine, as many are suspicious about claims that the war has transformed Ukraine, a country marked by corruption, into a de facto democracy.

    Also, during the war, the capture by the Russians of certain arms could prove harmful to European defense.

    For these reasons, the United States has probably not sent its M1 Abrams to the Ukrainian front.

    The Germans, for their part, look with suspicion at the rest of Europe and their demands to send the Leopards in the same direction that took them to the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

    Unfortunately, the war in the heart of Europe is moving towards an increasingly imminent confrontation between NATO and Russia. This is what Sergei Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, indicated last Monday, pointing out that the confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine is already closer to a "real war" than to a "hybrid war," due to the massive shipment of weapons to Ukraine.

    Therefore, if the European countries get even more involved in this war by supplying tanks and missiles, we will all be entering a dead end in which Putin, isolated by the West but armed to the teeth, should not be underestimated.

    JE comments:  A dribble of three or four different Western tanks (such as 14 Leopards) will be a logistical and maintenance nightmare, not to mention the problem of training the crews.  And Consoly León Arias brings up another risk--that these state-of-the-art tanks will fall into enemy hands.

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