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Light tanks no more?

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by JJWilson, Oct 15, 2017.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Hello everyone! I was looking this morning at the Modern tanks and armored vehicles of the major military powers of the world today, and I was shocked to see that very few use light tanks anymore? Light tanks during WW2 showed they could be of great value and have multiple uses in combat or otherwise. In the German invasion of Poland, light tanks were the staple of the German armored divisions mostly consisting of pz.1's and pz.35t's. The Soviets also relied heavily on light tanks such as the BT and T class tanks with infantry support roles and speedy assaults. The U.S also used M3 and M5 Stuarts in all theaters because of their versatility and small silhouette along with the Chaffe as well. During both WW2 and now light tanks would not do well fighting against other tanks because of their usually weak armament and armor, but in support and reconnaissance roles they could still be a huge help right? After WW2 light tanks were still being created (M41 Bulldog, AMX 13, LTTB, Ru 251), but it seems that for the most part after the 60's military's weren't interested in light tanks anymore. Is this because of the advancement in anti-tank methods and weapons along with the improvement of air support, or is there another reason? Thanks for anyone who has a thought or answer!

    Pz.1 -Wilson
    [​IMG]
    M5 Stuart
    upload_2017-10-15_12-38-58.jpeg
    T-70
    upload_2017-10-15_12-39-37.jpeg
    M41 Bulldog
    upload_2017-10-15_12-40-17.jpeg
    AMX 13
    upload_2017-10-15_12-40-49.jpeg
    PT-76
    [​IMG]
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Mk. 1 panzers, IIRC, were just to give the tankers something with tracks so they could learn to maneuver units. A lot of them were passed along for policing duty when the war started.
     
  3. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Plus: the Mk IIs and Pz 35Ts were only used because the Pz Divs wouldn't have had many tanks in the French campaign if they hadn't! Later in the war we started using M4s for the recon units. They had the same practical speed, used only one more crew member and were a lot more battle capable.
     
  4. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Maybe A semantics issue. I think light tanks are now really called armored fighting vehicles so the tracked Bradley with it's 25MM chain gun and anti-tank missiles serves the roles of the light tanks in WW2 as well as the tired Stryker. The new deal seems to be the ability to carry a light squad inside. The Russia equivalent, I forget the latest, has a 76MM gun and is also tracked. All major armies have some version and they definitely do recon work.

    If I remember correctly a Russian 76mm AFV knocked out a Bradley in the opening of the land assault by the US forces. Oddly, I read, that particularly version of the Bradley , at that time, had slightly better night vision equipment than the Abrams so the Bradley's were out looking for the enemy.

    Gaines
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
  5. Owen

    Owen O

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  6. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    They've gone in more for wheeled vehicles in the armed reconnaissance role, less logistical requirements (don't have the same level of wear and tear as tracks), lower maintenance requirements, lower fuel cost, less wear and tear on infrastructure (paved roads). With the advent of extremely powerful ATGM's a light vehicle can kill the heaviest tank, and if you're facing a main tank gun what little additional armor a light tank may provide over an LAV is negligible.

    You have CAAT (Combined Anti-Armor) Teams that use light vehicles Humvees, or new JLTV's (Joint Light tactical Vehicle). They use 50 cals, M40 grenade launchers and TOWs to kill tanks and provide reconnaissance and convoy security. In An Nasariya they killed a bunch of Iraqi T-55's without a loss. Not really much anti-armor combat since the 2003 invasion.

    Combined Anti-Armor Team - Wikipedia

    As Gaines pointed out the Bradley fighting vehicle can perform the light tank function and mounts the TOW in addition to the 25mm chain gun. The two main variants are the M2 troop carrier and M3 armored scout/reconnaissance. The M3 doesn't have the firing ports for embarked soldiers and carries more TOWs. During Gulf War 1 Bradleys destroyed more armored vehicles than the M1 tank, and only lost three to enemy fire (IIRC, an additional 17 were lost to friendly fire, which led to the installation of infra-red identification panels).

    The LAV-25 proved very effective in the reconnaissance and screening roles with the Marine Corps and the US Army in Gulf War I and with the Marine Corps in Iraq. The Marine Corps loaned the 82d Airborne a dozen or more LAV's during Desert Storm/Desert Shield and their positive feedback helped convince the Army of the suitability of an eight wheeled vehicle to fill a gap in their capabilities. The Army had recognized the gap between lightly armored, easily deployable Humvees and the heavier Bradley which took much more time to deploy. Their advanced sensors allowed them to spot and defeat enemy ambushes and they ranged far ahead of the main Marine RCT's during the 2003 invasion.

    LAV-25 - Wikipedia

    Stryker IAV based on the LAV III was deployed in late 2003 (November) to Iraq, after the invasion (March 2003) so no real anti-armor experience. However, despite some news reports to the contrary most soldiers that have served in Stryker units have a highly favorable opinion of the vehicle. One of the early complains was they were too lightly armed (unlike the LAV-25 and M2/M3 Bradley with a 25mm main gun), they mounted either a .50cal, a 7.62mm MG or a 40mm grenade launcher.

    The Germans and the Dutch have the Boxer AFV but I don't think it has been used in combat.

    The British family of CVR(T) vehicles have had widespread combat usage with a number of nations. The FV101 Scorpion (retired in British service in 1994) and FV107 Scimitar are the two that most closely occupy the light tank role you are asking about.

    FV101 Scorpion - Wikipedia

    FV107 Scimitar - Wikipedia
     
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  7. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    [​IMG]

    British Scimitar
     
  8. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your answers everybody, I have never heard of the British Scimitar before, it looks like a true blue light tank to me.
     
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    I think Scorpion's still in service in a few little countries.
    (I think Stuart might even be in one or two Latin American countries...)

    USMCPrice nails it.
    All about the wheels now.
    The pendulum may swing back one day, but Stryker etc are in the ascendance.
     
  10. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Paraguay still has ~15 Stuarts on the roster (as well as 2 Shermans). IIRC, the vehicles are used for training purposes.

    Brazil surplused 25 or so Stuarts around 2010. I believe these were "officially" in-service, but in reality had been sitting in a run down warehouse for many years.

    WW2 AFVs are still in limited service nearly 75 years after the fact. Cuba still operates T-34/85s and SU100s. Vietnam still operates SU100s. And don't forget everyone's favourite museum of vintage military technology.... the glorious Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
     
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  11. harolds

    harolds Member

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    With the new weapons systems such as TOW, etc. plus Chobham type and reactive armor, today's smaller tanks can survive and effectively hit back. However, in most of WW2 light tanks such as the Stuart were considered target practice by the Germans. Apparently, there is new life for the light tank, no matter if it has tracks or wheels.
     
  12. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I hope "light tanks" can avoid the Battlecruiser Effect.
     
  13. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Doubtful. Both the USA and USMC have periodically touted a mantra of lightness for lightness sake, without the slightest bit of evidence for its efficacy or even its possibility for the last fifty years or so. The previous iteration in the Army, promoted around 1999-2000 by CoS Eric Shinseki, was "Force XX!", based on a supposed need to provide a "Medium-weight" Armor Vehicle for rapid insertion to crises points where it would take longer to get a "heavy" force in place. The "interim force" vehicle chosen was a family of LAV-vehicles, which the Marines had been using for nearly two decades (with tepid enthusiasm at best) and which was approaching three decades in the field (it was essentially the Swiss MOWAG Piranha). The "objective force" vehicle the Future Combat System (FCS) - only ever existing as various "technology demonstrators" - was going to be a digitally interlinked, wheeled (or maybe tracked) light (or maybe medium) tracked (or maybe wheeled), vehicle that would use specially armor (or maybe LAZERS) to defeat enemy projectiles by virtue of its awesome American (or maybe Japanese) technology base...which, of course, no one would ever be able to duplicate or defeat. Mind you, no one really paid any attention to whether such a force could really get into place significantly faster...or, more importantly, whether or not it would be able to survive against an opposing conventional heavy force. The notion died a merciful and deserved death in 2009 when recession-reduced funding was diverted to ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the "interim" LAV was found highly vulnerable to mines, IEDs, VBIEDs, SBIEDs, and all man-portable AT weapons as well the omnipresent 14.5mm machine gun So they were significantly up-armored, rebuilt with new suspensions, internal fire suppression systems, and various other do-dads, which of course ensured they were no longer capable of the rapid insertion by air they never actual were capable of in the first place and for reason that were ill-justified to start with.

    Anyway, it died a well-deserved death nearly 15 years ago, but now vampire-like is rising from the dead to victimize the psyches of Army and Marine war planners yet again.Only it isn't called the FCS anymore. No, its the NGCV, which is WAAY better, since its a four-letter acronym for Next Generation Combat Vehicle and not some lousy three-letter acronym. And gee whiz - it might FLY!

    Go Team General Dynamics Land Systems! Ooops, I mean GO USA! MAGA by resurrecting idiotic notions based on unproven assumptions fueled by greed and envy.
     
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  14. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    I'm sensing frustration.....................:D
     
  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Light tanks come into and go out of fashion with service budgets and the intensiveness of conflict. Light tanks are popular for counter insurgency and when budgets are tight. They go out of fashion when forces have to fight a high intensity war.

    A Bradley isn't a light tank. Its an infantry fighting vehicle.

    The practical use for light tanks in war is for tactical recce. The British CVRT managed to cope with the bogs and moorland of the Falkland Islands. There has always been a debate about wheels versus tracks. In 1985 I asked a German Bundeswehr officer about the rationale for the huge six wheeled Fuchs. His answer: "There are no roads in Poland."
     
  16. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Yep. The fashion for lightness wafts periodically through the U.S. Army and seems to never go away with the Marines, even though without their heavy add-ons they likely would have bled dry in the Pacific campaign early on and would have probably lost the 1st MARDIV in Korea...

    Yep. Pre-MBT a "light tank" simply defined a bridge class rather than a narrow tactical function...as did medium and heavy. That is why there were various "light" infantry support and even "assault" tank designs. Lighter weight designs were simply more maneuverable, especially in the 1920s and 1930s when limitations in suspension and engines governed the size of gun and weight of armor carried. In 1922, the U.S. Army tank classes were set by Army Regulations as 5 ton for light and 15 ton for medium. In spring 1933, the restrictions were relaxed - light tanks were allowed up to 7 1/2 tons. Then in 1940 things went completely haywire as Ordnance and the Engineers fought bitterly over the expanding size of tanks that jumped to 23, then 25, 27, and even more tons (the rapid growth in tank weight also caused problems with the design of landing craft and ships and for transporting tanks overseas). Finally, on 28 August 1943, AR 850-15 regulated maximum tank size as 35 tons and 124-inches maximum width, which immediately caused heartburn as the T25 and T26 were then under development.

    That is what it has become...unless you are an advocate for the NGCV. :D

    Which was one of the reasons for the light tank in the first place.

    Gotta keep your eyes on the Jerries every minute. :D
     
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  17. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    As for the Marines, it's only partially true. In WWII, in the Pacific, the ability to field a tank was limited by the weight limitations of supporting ships. Early in the war the M2/M3 Stuart was the heaviest tank that could be loaded on a tank lighter given the booms on navy ships, when they couldn't be loaded across a dock. The Marine Corps realized early on that there was a need for armored support in their operations, fortunately Japan was using lighter tanks and the Stuart wasn't at a disadvantage. The US Army first used the M3, to good effect, in the Philippines. Of course the M3 medium tank was not available, it came out in late 1941, had it been it could have been loaded across the port facilities in the Philippines, but war came too quickly and Great Britain had a greater need. Marines landed with Stuarts at Guadalcanal. Marine Corps Defense battalion light tanks supported most of the early US Army operations in the Solomons. It was the US Navy's first LSD, the USS Ashland (commissioned 5 June 1943), that allowed the medium tank M4 to finally be deployed in a Pacific theater amphibious operation at Tarawa in November 1943. After Tarawa the Marine Corps rapidly transitioned to all medium tanks in it's tank battalions once the ability to land them was available. The exception was the retention of the M3/M5 Stuart "Satan" flame tanks used in the Marianas (a practical M4 Sherman flame tank was still being developed). The other major player as far as getting tanks ashore, the LST's, were being commissioned (starting in December 1942 around the time Guadalcanal was finishing up), but virtually all the low pennant numbers were going to the MTO, a number were also handed over to the Brits, for the impending Sicily campaign. It wasn't just the Europe first strategy, or lower Pacific theater priority, there were practical reasons as well, those troops would have a greater need for medium tanks because they would be be facing Germans fielding medium tanks. When WWII ended the Marine Corps had no light armored vehicles except for the LVT which is a specialty vehicle. It had the M4, M4 105 support and M4 Flame, that's it.

    [​IMG]

    This is how tanks were landed prior to the availability of the LST and LSD.

    They went to Korea with the M26 Pershing, that's the only tank they fielded other than the legacy M4 105mm support tank. It was critical at Pusan, Inchon, Seoul and at the Chosin Reservoir. There was no "push" to go light, most of their push at the time was towards helicopters and "vertical envelopment"

    From Wikipedia:
    "In 1946, U.S. Marine General Roy S. Geiger observed the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll and instantly recognized that atomic bombs could render amphibious landings difficult because of the dense concentrations of troops, ships and material at beachheads. During this time, The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Alexander Vandegrift, convened a special board known as the Hogaboom Board. This board recommended that the USMC develop transport helicopters in order to allow a diffused attack on enemy shores. It also recommended that the USMC form an experimental helicopter squadron. HMX-1 was commissioned in 1947 with Sikorsky HO3S-1s.[10] In 1948 the Marine Corps Schools came out with Amphibious Operations—Employment of Helicopters (Tentative), or Phib-31, which was the first manual for helicopter airmobile operations.[11] The Marines used the term vertical envelopment instead of air mobility or air assault. HMX-1 performed its first vertical envelopment from the deck of an aircraft carrier in an exercise in 1949."

    [​IMG]

    Photo from Marine Corps Museum of world's first combat "vertical envelopment" Operation Windmill, 13 September 1951, "The Punchbowl" Korean War.

    After the last M3/M5's were replaced during WWII (the last, the "Satan" was replaced after Saipan), the Marine Corps didn't field or purchase another light armored vehicle, no M24, no M-41, no m-56, not until it purchased the M50 Ontos after the US Army passed on it (the US Army adopted the M-56 Scorpion), starting in October 1956. It was intended to be used as a mobile anti-tank system, but when it was deployed to Vietnam it didn't have any tanks to anti. It did prove useful in the direct fire support role and it's light weight and low ground pressure allowed it to cross bridges the M48 couldn't and it quite often proved useful in extricating M48's stuck in the mud and muck. It was very useful in the Battle for Hue.



    M50 Ontos

    It should also be noted that at the same time they adopted the light Ontos, they also adopted the M-103 Heavy tank. The US Army bought 80, the Marine Corps 220! The US Army fielded them from 1958-1963, the Marine Corps kept them until 1973, one company per tank battalion. The M-103 was never used in combat. The next light armored vehicle they adopted was the LAV 25 in 1983. It was adopted as a light reconnaissance vehicle, is used in LAR Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions. It has proven to be a very successful vehicle, but they never intended it to be all things like the US Army did with the Stryker and thus it didn't go through development hell like that vehicle. The Marine Corps did sink a ton into it's AAV replacement, the EFV (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle) and like the Army with the Stryker tried to make it fill too many roles, so it didn't end up being good for any of them, and thankfully was dropped. So where's the perpetual "light"?
     
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  18. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    USMCPrice, don't stop me, I'm on a roll...

    Anyway, Ken Estes is a good friend, so I know. :D
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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  20. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Roll on Rich, there was much truth and good insight in your post that's why I liked it prior to replying. You also gave a short description of the "bridging" problem, which reminded me of oone of my favorite posts by you:

    "You need to reread what I wrote.

    "Bridges", i.e., "a structure carrying a road, path, railroad, or canal across a river, ravine, road, railroad, or other obstacle" width and load-bearing capacity were designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers according to weights regulated by the Army staff. Think about it for a second. You have to have bridging material portable enough that it can be carried in vehicles and erected in a relatively short period of time. The heavier the loads they carry and the wider those loads are, then the bigger the bridge has to be, the heavier it is, and the longer it takes to emplace.

    Now add the simple fact that tank sizes grew radically over a short period of time. Assumptions about future medium tank sizes went from 15 tons in 1922, which was small enough to fit the average highway bridge in the country and to be able to cross the standard engineer bridge, to 25 tons in 1940, after the engineers had redesigned their bridge to accommodate 23 tons...back to the drawing board! Then 27 tons, 30 tons, 33 tons, 38 tons, 40 tons...and then the T26. All in the space of less than five years.

    Amphibious ships and craft were even more problematic, since they were much more complicated things to build. Just as the design and building of the LCT-6 caught up to the size and weight of the latest Sherman, they had to rework it again to fit the T26. And there that was a factor of not just the vessels "bridge" to the land, its ramp being wide and strong enough, but the vessels deck had to be able to bear the deadweight as well.

    Nor could the M4 be easily modified with the T26 turret. For one thing, the turret still had to be built, and if you're going to do that why not build the rest of the tank to go with it? For another, the only thing that was easy was fitting the turret to the M4 hull, because the turret rings were the same diameter. then you had to rebuild the tank interior to accommodate the larger rounds, which meant fewer rounds, which were in a more constricted space, which meant they had to be reloaded more often and would have a slower rate of fire...and so on.

    Nor can you just "add" turret roofs and armor to the M18 and M36. The M10 was actually designed with attachment points for add-on armor, but they were almost never used because? Weight. Armor is heavy. It adds a lot of weight for a small area. The vehicle engine is then under a greater strain and is more prone to breakdown, as is the suspension, the tracks dig more into the ground so its easier to get stuck, and so on.

    See? It is never "simple"."

    Found here:
    http://ww2f.com/threads/myths-and-facts-about-m4-sherman-and-t-34.57421/page-4#post-655109 Post#80
     

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