Does the Army Still Need Armor?

That’s the question posed by this piece at Foreign Affairs. Sadly, it’s a premium article, so I can’t read the whole thing, just the set up. But it does raise the question. Do we still need heavy forces in an era of a “pivot to Asia?”

I’ll just note that we’ve actually spent a lot of time post-World War II fighting in Asia, and armor was important in every fight.

Plus, here’s a tank.

14 thoughts on “Does the Army Still Need Armor?”

  1. The Progressive Left would even love that tank…..meeting on the FLOT sharing a brewski instead of launching bullets…what a wonderful world. So tanks, not a Armored MOS holder and never was so my thought is what I counseled soldiers when going to the field, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Who saw Desert Storm coming and that it would be (ultimately) an “Armored Deal” and just think those were “older” M1 series MBT’s. For now, hell yes keep them!

    1. Well, Brad, if you want sexual harassment, the guys need to be well trained. Some guys just can’t get it right and are an embarrassment to the male sex.

  2. If memory serves, after the ’03 invasion, conventional wisdom was that armor was no longer needed. That’s not to mention the old conventional wisdom that it was a bad idea to use tanks in urban combat Then we found out that tanks could be very useful, at least when you’re fighting a less well-trained force.

    It was also conventional wisdom that we wouldn’t need tanks in Afghanistan. That turned out incorrect as well.

    Anyone else remember when bombers were obsolete? Then it was realized they made great bomb trucks for JDAMs. The B-52 is still the most cost-effective force projector in the AF inventory.

    I would say that we have -at least for a while- entered a period where obsolescence will be held at bay. Many systems can be re-purposed. What can and will take out a weapons system is cost-effectiveness, which why no one is building battleships or F-14s, despite their many excellent qualities.

    Perhaps simplicity & flexibility will become the new paradigm, as opposed to bleeding-edge high tech. Let us recall the main reason US armed forces went that route was originally to balance the huge odds against them facing the Soviet forces.

    Let us recall that the Allies’ main systems were relatively low-tech compared to the German stuff during WW2, especially tanks; the T-34 excepted.

  3. In a word: Yes.
    Duh, that was easy. Nobody looks to get rid of it until they look at the operating costs. Threats have a way of settling down when the tanks roll up; even in environments when the bad guys got accustomed to having them around.

  4. The Army and marines still need Armor. I don’t think that will change any time soon. What will change are the formations in which they deploy. Iraq needed Tank heavy formations. The rock pile needs infantry heavy formations. Choose the right tool for the right job. A carpenter needs more than a hammer or saw, just as an Army needs a variety of things to go and conquer all.

  5. What purpose does it serve to leave a tool out of the belt? It is not only handicapping oneself to be unprepared but negligent.

    When I was contracting I pulled up on the job with every tool possible in my truck. I was a fool to leave one home, because I might need it!

    Plan for future wars as you will but bring every tool to battle! Or at least have it in the truck. Well that might be in the ships offshore?

  6. Part of the “2003 putsch” relative to armor was to toy (aka Stryker) with wheeled armor. Not that I have a problem with wheeled armor per se, but the AGS w/105 mm has not been fully developed in either the Marine LAV or Army Stryker. I believe its been established that a main gun in the 25 mm-30 mm caliber can’t do anything but piss off MBT’s thus we should keep full-blown armor….we can store what won’t be used in new generation formations. I know that Bradley’s have the TOW capability and that is a lethal system, but reloading those things never mind not being able to exceed 5 mph while firing (unless that’s changed), doesn’t make that a “Heavy Substitute.” I won’t even start on the differences in the actual armour between the M1 family of MBT’s and other armour found on other types of vehicles. Hell even in my old line of work the R&D has been dicey just being able to Air Drop/Air Deliver the Stryker which was sold on one of many premises that it would be air droppable….that ain’t happened yet either. XBrad I believe Bradleys would be your expertise and you could spool this “light” guy up on TOW mounted on Bradleys, pluses/minuses.

  7. Somebody has more Airborne wisdom than they are letting on. You are of course correct LT Rusty or on the personnel drop side of the thought, anyone can jump without a parachute one time. I didn’t mean to intone that a Stryker has not been (successfully), air dropped for they have, its just that the process has seemed to have gone into “stasis” mode. When determining what can be operationally, and in a training environment dropped on a continual level, stasis isn’t a good thing. I should add that given this thread I continually heard through many years in my career that Vertical Insertions/Envelopements wound NEVER be used again taught me quickly to “never say never.”

    1. I kinda got the impression the 173rd’s Iraq jump was just so they could say they did it, but I’m willing to listen to the other side of the argument.

  8. I thank you for your kind addressing of the subject (some folks are a bit thin skinned about it). That jump may have had a show of force value, but that’s about it in my opinion. You know how things go in the military in that after things “sit on the shelf” for a while somebody, somewhere wants to see what it can do. Not taking away from my much younger brethren from “The Herd” I was hard pressed to see what value was gained in any capacity by jumping into Kurdish Territory which although not autonomous was definitely secured by Kurds. Additionally I’m not sure a TM defined combat jump has been done by conventional airborne forces since Korea. The textbook definition is an “in the blind” jump into territory that is held or thought to be held by OPFOR. Yes, I am also including in this thought Operation Junction City in Viet-Nam done in ’67 by 2/503 Inf (Abn), 173d Abn. Bde. was somewhat the same deal. I will say here however that a sky full of canopies made a Panamanian dictator have an involuntary bowel movement. When you see that, to say “they’re here” is already an untimely utterance. This is all my opinion, and I was in “Airborne World” all but one year of my career, (Reforger 1 1969 24th Inf. Div. Ft. Riley, KS.) and I made a serious study of my “community” both historically, and as time presented opportunities for evaluation. BTW when the 82d and elements of the Ranger Regiment jumped into Panama some of the Drop A/C took AAA hits and if I recall correctly there was one friendly KIA on board one A/C as a round went through the skin of the aircaft, some wounded as well. Don’t recall that happening during the Iraq op. Remember, the C-17 was relatively new then as well…

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