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What? if anything, will ever make the tank obsolete?

Discussion in 'Post-World War 2 Armour' started by Bolo, Aug 9, 2004.

  1. Bolo

    Bolo New Member

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    I've always wondered about this. Tanks are essentially mobile pillboxes/strong points. 2000 years ago the chariot was the tank of the Assyrians and the Egyptians only to be made obsolete by cavalry and changing infantry tactics. It reappears again and again in some form or another.

    A tough question. I do not think that it will ever be replaced, only limited for a time and then taken out of mothballs or reinvented.

    Could I be wrong?
     
  2. Zable Fahr

    Zable Fahr New Member

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    unless someone invents intelligent battle robots, i don't think tanks will get obsolete
     
  3. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Even then, you will have bigger robots with heavier arms & armour
     
  4. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    Three possibilities as I see it.

    1) We all become tree hugging peace lovers

    Rather more likely

    2) A new weapon is developed that is man portable and capable of defeating any known level of protection (think star trek phaser) ground warfare becomes a matter of firing first and firing accurately. Vehicles in general simply become big targets.

    3) Satilite mounted weapon systems. Second you get spotted you get smoked.
     
  5. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Well...

    1) We both know how likely this is gonna be.

    2) The key here is known forms of protection - I'm sure some kind of protection will be found - for phasers think energy shields. (interestingly, phasers appear useless against armour, but we won't go there!)

    3) Satellites can be fooled. Plus you have all kinds of issues of accuracy (variables include the state of the various atmospheric levels you are shooting through etc) and ammunition supply. Possibly this is negated by a laser of some kind , but I'd like to see the laser beam that can remain effective enough to kill a tank after going through various weather patterns (ie: a thunderstorm), all the way from orbit!

    Maybe science will negate the tank. We cannot know what is going to be developed. One Sci-Fi book I read had a weapon called a Reaper - basically it harnessed the power of a fusion reactor into a narrow beam, and could therefore cut through anything. It was about the size of an unloaded AK-47, but slightly heavier.
    So maybe option 2) is the most likely.
     
  6. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    Bottom line is a tank is a mobile pill box that provides heavy support while being immune to small arms fire. For as long as the tank can do this and this is needed the tank will not be obsolete.

    Oh and on the subject of us all becoming tree hugging peace lovers it might happen, ok it makes being hit by lighting while holding a winning lottery ticket while watching the loch ness monster get run down by a UFO look like a sure thing but you never know. :grin:
     
  7. Bolo

    Bolo New Member

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    I read anything to do with tanks. I got my handle from this.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... 5?v=glance

    They can sue me later.

    Sci fi is speculation, but.

    "unless someone invents intelligent battle robots, i don't think tanks will get obsolete"

    Why not artificial intellect? Then it is a question of who is obsolete. Humans?

    In the books these things use "hellbores" as a main weapon. It is a gun that shoots what is essentially a controled nuclear blast up a barrel after a laser beam has cleared the way. Range is infinite in a clear line of sight.
    So much for satellites or even the starship Enterprise.

    I am not going to go far down this road as it is fiction. I f you are wondering what you want to read next try the above.

    Can a heavily armoured human make the current generation of tanks obsolete? I think so. Tanks are still just as vulnerable to a bottle of gasoline as they were 60 years ago.

    It's all action and reaction. Measure and countermeasure.

    The only thing that I can think of is some type of induction field. Something that heats metal and metal parts in such a way as it cannot be detected and destroyed in turn.
     
  8. Roel

    Roel New Member

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    Hey Bolo, welcome to the forum! This is a very interesting question, more related to modern-type armour and therefore I moved it to its section. See also:
    http://www.fun-online.sk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=515

    Personally, I think the tank will be made obsolete rather by the nature of battles than by progress of science. This has made all weapons of history obsolete; not a superior countermeasure of some kind because anything can be improved to counter that in itself, but rather an entire change in executions of warfare. The machine gun made cavalry obsolete, but not simply by being there but by changing the nature of battles from moving blocks of infantry to lines of trenches. This is just one example.

    The tank, as you put it, is basically a mobile protected weapons plant. It is required to fight an enemy in a firm position, in order to wrench him out of there. But modern-day warfare hardly involves such an enemy, but rather has tanks facing small groups of moving infantry in terrain familiar to them. This is a change in the nature of battles when you compare it to the ideal of tank warfare, which is the Eastern Front of WW2. Therefore, one could argue that the tank is already obsolete.
     
  9. Bolo

    Bolo New Member

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    The nature of battles/warfare does change. Look at the chariot, an ancient form of the tank. It was made obsolete partly by tech and partly by tactics.

    Helicopter warfare is not going to do the trick IMO because of the basic simplicity of the tank concept. It is basically a mobile strongpoint that you put guns in. That will never change.

    The main restraint on tank development is cost. You could concievably build a tank that was invulnerable. Hollow out a mountain of granite and make it mobile. Ridiculous yes, impossible no.

    If you go all out you can build a tank that is well capable of taking on infantry, guided missiles, hell even a nuclear blast under the right conditions. Choppers are not going to stop the tank, make it's life harder yes but it is only a matter of necessity/time before the tank will adapt once again.

    The Russians already have systems to defeat incoming warheads like the Shtora. With the cost restraints taken off you can design and build a tank that is capable of being on its own in the battlefield. Surveillance drones to watch the area around the tank, why not a point defence system like a super gatling gun to take out anything flying towards it. The chopper behind the hill? find it with the remote system and lob a few fancy mortar rounds at it. It doesn't even have to blow up the chopper, how about a big net that gets tangled in the rotor blades.

    I wouldn't bet on a chopper as the solution, for the tank it's just a matter of adaptation, choppers are a dead end because in the long run I believe that the area they call home is going to be one of the deadliest. They will eventually be forced to the ground like the tank. Infantry? Their lot would be worse.

    A hybrid of some kind, a hovertank? for mobility yes but you would still be up against the same old need, cover, to become one with the earth to hide yourself and decease the vulnerability of yourself.
     
  10. Roel

    Roel New Member

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    Precisely. And as you point out in your own post nothin that is around now in the field of technology makes the tank obsolete; it is the nature of combat that makes them so. They are no longer needed to win a fight because the fight doesn't require them.
     
  11. Mutant Poodle

    Mutant Poodle New Member

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    The Guass Cannon and or Guass Rifle. Until the armour is created to withstand the new weapon.
     
  12. Bolo

    Bolo New Member

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    Ok I see your point. Would we ever be so lucky though to advance to the point evolution wise that the politicians who start the wars are in a ring fighting one another to the death in their birthday suits?

    We can only hope.
     
  13. Bolo

    Bolo New Member

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    Here are some real interesting concepts.

    http://users.stargate.net/~whkeith/htm/bolo.htm

    It's sci-fi sure but in 1920 going to the moon was also. These are real entertaining books also. My nephew loved them at the age of 10, they were the first really difficult books that he read. An excellent learning tool for kids.
     
  14. Gatsby phpbb3

    Gatsby phpbb3 New Member

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    Lets bring it back to the basics. The advantages of the tank are:
    1.) Protection
    2.) Mobility
    3.) Heavy weaponry

    Its weaknesses are:
    1.) Big target. Especially vulnerable to other heavy weapons.
    2.) Poor in close combat
    3.) Heavy and expensive

    So lets deal with each aspect seperately

    Protection: So long as the tank still offers a reasonable degree of protection against infantry weapons and is not completly hapless against specialized anti-tank weaponry, it will continue to be of some use. The essential question here is: Can advances in armour technology keep up with advances in weapon technology? Currently the situation seems to favour a negative answer. Hellfire missiles, TOWs, even the antiquated RPG-7 all stand a reasonable chance of penetrating the armour of the latest tanks. If the tank remains as defenseless against air attacks, or if there are no significant advances in low level air defense, then the tank is likely to lose many of its advantages in protection.

    Of course, the other alternative is that some killer weapon might come by that renders infantry obsolete. A gun that fires superheated plasma that incinerates anything in its path is a good bet. Or perhaps some highly advanced piece of infra-red technology that would detect infantry even if they were concealed. You wouldn't be able to take cover in a bush or in a house because it would go up in flames completly before you knew it.

    Mobility: Nothing much to be said here. Unlikely that this is ever going to change. Armies of the future will inevitably end up more mobile than ever.

    Heavy weaponry: One of the principal advantages of the tank. The turret mounted gun allows the tank to employ a gun capable of penetrating most ground-based protective gear with a reasonable degree of accuracy regardles of direction. Unless light weapons and small arms are capable one day of generating sufficent firepower to overcome almost all forms of armour from range, heavy weaponry will retain its advantages. The shoulder-fired missile or hand lasers might one day achieve this, but such a breakthrough is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

    The cheif competitors here take the form of the ground-attack plane and helicopter, which are far more mobile and are able to strike from afar. Nonetheless, their speed and range come at a price. They are certainly more vulnerable and expensive than the tank, and their crews take a longer time to train. In scenarios where air power is weighed decisively in the favour of one faction, then the tank might experience a decline in usefulness.

    Big Target: This means that the tank is unable to conceal itself, and makes it an inviting target for the big guns and missiles. The question that has to be asked here is similar to the one that has been discussed under "protection", so I won't waste your time here.

    Poor in close combat: Always will remain a weakness of the tank. The development of a combat walker slightly larger than a man might solve this problem, if it is capable of combining the versatility of the foot soldier with the protetction and firepower of the tank. But the combat walker is never an acceptable replacment for the tank due to the simple fact that it has to be light to work.

    Heavy and Expensive: This isn't going to change either, so I won't elaborate on it any further.

    I'm too tired to write any further.
     
  15. GP

    GP New Member

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    Infantry can be detected with heat sensors, together with UAV's could see the gradual demise of the humble tank (one tanks 3 or 4 crew and 5 million or 1 UAV and 1 operator. UAV's will become cheaper and cheaper).
     
  16. Roel

    Roel New Member

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    The idea of combat robots isn't as far out as you may think. Even today robots are capable of a significant variety of tasks; development in this area could lead to effective combat robots within the next few decades. Then of course I am not talking about tanks without drivers, but rather the small crawlers or flyers that are used these days to search cavities and such. Imagine a flying robot the size of a wasp, simply flying into a tank's vent shaft and into the engine, burning a hole somewhere and dying. Nothing very complicated, yet highly effective if used in swarms. This will definitely make the tank obsolete in the case of a face-off with nations that possess such technology.
     
  17. Bolo

    Bolo New Member

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    The only thing lacking in our tanks in this day and age is good active defensive systems. Armour is passive, it sits on a tank and takes the hit. Aerosols, smoke and things like the system the Russians use are active. They prevent the tank from being hit.

    Anything mentioned above may force the tank back to the drawing board but it will never make it obsolete as a concept. There will always be a way to fight back.

    How about nanowarfare? Nanoscience is the study of the microscopic on the molecular level. If we ever get advanced enough to manipulate molecules to actually do our bidding Alchemy is possible. You could turn lead into gold. You can dump a bunch of metals into a pool and come back the next day is a product that was made from scratch by molecular robots programmed for the task at hand.

    This also begs the question that if we had the technology to lead into gold and water into wine the concept of warfare may become obsolete. There will be nothing to fight over thus the tank may then be obsolete.
     
  18. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Sadly most warfare since WW2 has been ideological in nature, so simply removing greed from the equation is unlikely to solve any problem except crime!

    The idea that the tank is obsolete & un-needed...
    The trouble with that is that everybody has tanks. Even with all the fancy mines / missiles / AT artillery shells / air power / etc, it is still safer to have tanks of your own when dealing with enemy armour. So as long as everyone has tanks, everyone will need tanks.
    Spotted the circle yet?

    But, if everyone simultaniously drops tanks, anyone who retains them will have an advantage.
     
  19. Mutant Poodle

    Mutant Poodle New Member

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    A true Hover Tank, now that would change the mine warfare perhaps make the entire concept obsolete!

    Hover drones as well, now that would be good for almost anything. Good point.
     
  20. GP

    GP New Member

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    We have the technology to turn lead into gold but is it too expensive.

    (non american bashing :lol: )
     

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