Recently, in the expert environment, especially in foreign, there is a regular discussion about the role tanks in modern warfare, and even views are expressed about the inexpediency of having them in the army. In these discussions, when considering the role and place of tanks, it must be borne in mind that tanks were and remain the striking force of the ground forces and the seizure of territories is always not carried out. aviation and missiles, and ground forces with the support of tanks and interaction with other branches of the military.
The level of technical and technological superiority of the opposing sides in tanks and means of destruction of tanks makes it possible to achieve a serious advantage in the implementation of assigned tasks in military conflicts of varying intensity.
The role of tanks in recent conflicts
Tanks can be used in large-scale (global), regional and local conflicts. In each of them, the requirements for tanks and their role are fundamentally different. In a global conflict in a clash of opponents with high-tech weapons, will require the massive use of tanks with high mobility characteristics, the ability to effectively fire over long distances, good protection from various means of destruction and integration into a single command and control system.
In regional conflicts with the participation of leading countries of the world, as was the case in Iraq, it is not their number that becomes decisive, but the technical level of equipment of tanks and the ability to quickly control them on the battlefield.
In local conflicts, opponents use a limited number of tanks and, as a rule, with rather low characteristics. The conditions for conducting battles are completely different, fleeting clashes at short distances, often in urban development and saturation of sides in anti-tank systems and RPGs, where high firepower is not needed for a tank, it must be well protected from short-range weapons.
It is also necessary to bear in mind the appearance on the battlefield of new threats to the tank in the form of UAVs of various classes and purposes, high-precision land and air-based weapons, powerful and long-range MLRS systems.
There has not yet been a global conflict after the Second World War; regional conflicts have arisen regularly. They used large tank groupings of several thousand tanks, and local conflicts with the use of several hundred tanks were not uncommon. The last two wars in Iraq, 1991 and 2003, can serve as an example of regional conflicts, and local ones - in Donbass in 2014 and recently flared up in Karabakh. In all these conflicts, tanks were used and one of the leading roles was assigned to them.
In the first war of 1991, Desert Storm, the US-led coalition used an armored fist of 5600 tanks, of which about 2000 M1A1s and 250 British Challengers. Despite the relatively large number of Iraqi tank parks, they hardly represented a real combat force, Iraq put up 5500 tanks, of which 4900 T-55 and T-62 and about 600 T-72.
In the second war, 2003 ("Shock and Awe"), the United States had only 760 tanks, of which 640 М1А1 and М1А2 and 120 Challengers. The Iraqi army could oppose about 2200-2600 tanks, of which only 700-900 T-72, T-72M and T-72M1, and most of the armored vehicles were obsolete T-55 and T-62 vehicles and their Chinese clones "Type 59 "And" Type 69 ".
The types of tanks show that the Iraqi tanks could not seriously resist the American ones. In the first war, the characteristics of the M1A1 with the T-55 / T-62 were simply incomparable, and in the second the M1A2 was significantly superior to the T-72.
The Americans, naturally, achieved impressive results, the Iraqi tank groupings were defeated with minimal American losses. In the 1991 operation, they lost only 21 M1A1 tanks, which was due to the short duration of the battles - only a few weeks, the weakening of the Iraqi army due to massive air strikes, the superiority of the Americans in technology, intelligence and command and control. In oncoming tank battles, the Iraqis lost and suffered serious losses at long distances due to the imperfection of their tanks and the significant superiority of the American in the effectiveness of firing, especially at night, using thermal imaging sights. The Iraqis were ready to seriously confront the Americans, but the equipment was incomparable and they lacked the level of training even in this technique, and the elite Iraqi tank divisions were defeated.
During the second war, the Americans used more advanced M1A2 tanks, which had information control and navigation systems, independent sights for the commander and gunner, and a perfect ballistic computer with a set of sensors. In addition, after the capture of Baghdad, the Iraqi defense ceased to exist, since the Americans managed to bribe most of the Iraqi generals, who surrendered, and the Iraqi troops fled to their homes. On the streets of Baghdad and Tikrit, several hundred T-72s with unused ammunition were abandoned in perfect working order.
In these two wars, the decisive role was played not by the number of tanks, but by the technical superiority of the Americans and the betrayal of the commanders of the Iraqi army, which allowed the Americans to win in the shortest possible time.
In the local conflict in Donbass in 2014, the Armed Forces used up to about 500 tanks, mainly modifications of the T-64B, and a certain number of T-72B1, on the part of the militia several hundred tanks, mainly modifications of the T-72B to T-72B3, and a number of modifications of the T-64B. Tanks were not used en masse, they were mainly used as part of battalion tactical groups and during the capture of strongholds and settlements. There were no oncoming tank battles, there were isolated cases of tank duels. With a fairly high technical level of tanks, the losses of the sides were significant, the Armed Forces lost 184 tanks, 48 were captured by the militia, and 88 tanks were lost by the militia, 5 were captured by the enemy.
According to statistics, up to 70% of the tanks were destroyed by cannon and rocket artillery and a certain amount from ATGM and RPG fire. The high level of losses of the parties was due to poor training of tankers at all levels, the lack of technical means on tanks for interaction between tanks, artillery and infantry, and the lack of thoughtful tactics of using tanks.
On both sides, tanks of the same technical level and approximately the same training of tankers were used; neither side achieved a decisive advantage with significant losses of tanks. As a result of the conflict, the task arose to strengthen the protection of tanks from artillery, anti-tank systems and RPGs.
In the Karabakh conflict, hundreds of tanks are also used, in the Azerbaijani army 760 tanks, including about 470 T-72 tanks, 200 T-90S and about a hundred T-55, and in the Armenian army 320 tanks, including 270 T-72. 40 T-55 and several T-80. In fact, T-72s are opposing each other on both sides.
According to the results of three weeks of fighting, the sides suffer serious losses, according to their unconfirmed statements, each side lost up to 150 tanks. There are many videos of tanks actually being destroyed. The reasons are the same: poor training of tankers, lack of well-thought-out tactics for their use and restrictions on the terrain. In this conflict, a new threat to tanks quickly emerged - attack UAVs and gliding ammunition, easily hitting tanks in the least protected upper projection.
The experience of using tanks in recent conflicts shows that none of the conflicts is complete without the serious use of tanks. Do you need or do not need tanks in modern warfare? The question is answered unequivocally: they are needed. What tanks are needed? This issue requires an analysis of threats from a potential enemy, his technical equipment and the ability to oppose him with the required number of tanks with appropriate technical characteristics.
Technical level of existing tanks
Past conflicts have shown that the weak link of tanks is not firepower and mobility, but security and the ability to interact with each other and with other military branches.
In terms of firepower and mobility, tanks have reached a certain level. There has been no qualitative leap here for a long time. Tracked undercarriage, diesel engine or gas turbine engine with all its advantages and disadvantages provide acceptable power density. It does not fundamentally differ on both existing and promising tanks.
In terms of firepower, modern tanks are close to the optimal caliber of the gun. No one is going to further increase the caliber to 152 mm, and this is hardly advisable, since it leads to an unjustified increase in the mass of the tank, a decrease in the amount of ammunition and a decrease in its mobility. They found another way to increase the firepower of the tank - without significantly increasing its mass, through the use of guided weapons.
The tank's fire control systems based on optical, thermal imaging and television channels ensure effective firing and acceptable conditions for target detection and tracking. At the same time, a significant drawback has not been eliminated - unsatisfactory visibility from the tank and the lack of a convenient presentation of information about the environment to the crew. A tank needs good "eyes", and they can only be provided by integrated information within the information and control system.
The classic protection of the tank with armor and its increase inevitably led to an increase in mass and a decrease in mobility. The use of explosive reactive armor partially solved this problem, but it also has its limits and does not lead to a guaranteed protection of the tank from means of destruction.
Achievements in the creation of active protection systems operating on the principle of destroying a projectile flying into a tank (ATGM) by counter ammunition did not allow the creation of an effective KAZ. The mass of technical difficulties in ensuring the meeting point of the ammunition flying into the tank and the fired ammunition with existing technologies does not allow solving this problem with high quality and in the required dimensions.
There is still no effective "antidote" against the new means of destruction of tanks (UAVs) and gliding ammunition attacking a tank from above. The tank is practically defenseless against this threat. They tried to completely close the upper hemisphere of the tank with the help of the Shater KAZ developed in the 80s, but they did not achieve a positive result. This task has not been solved even today. The electrodynamic protection systems developed on the basis of new principles are still far from being realized due to the lack of mass and size energy sources acceptable for the tank. Today, the solution to the problem of ensuring security (including promising tanks) remains the most urgent.
The place and role of the promising tank "Armata"
In this regard, the question arises about the effectiveness of the promising Armata tank and its place in the Russian army. He seems to be and defiles at parades, but in fact was not adopted for service and for the sixth year it is not clear what tests have been going on. It should be emphasized that the Armata tank first appeared at the parade in May 2015, when, after the annexation of Crimea, the West seriously "ran over" to Russia, and it was necessary to show its strength. The unfinished "raw" Armata successfully fulfilled its advertising task, and the declared high characteristics must be confirmed, this takes years, and the development of the tank is still ongoing.
"Armata" is undoubtedly a new generation tank, they are trying to introduce original technical solutions that give the tank a new quality, but the military is in no hurry to adopt it, and this has its own reason. In addition to the ambiguous technical solution with an uninhabited tower, the effectiveness of which can only be tested in a real combat situation, there are other questions. If we compare the main characteristics of the "Armata" with the most advanced serial T-72 B3M and T-90MS, then the characteristics are better in terms of firepower and mobility, but there is no fundamental separation. In terms of cross-country ability, a high power density was achieved, but it can also be achieved on existing tanks by installing a powerful engine up to 1500 hp.
The tank uses the more advanced 125 mm 2A82 cannon, a further development of the serial 2A46. Still, they reasonably refused to install the 152-mm cannon, this decision, which was mentioned above, brings too many problems for the tank. Apparently, on the basis of a tank and 152-mm cannon, it is more expedient to create specialized self-propelled guns to support tanks and hack enemy defenses. The fire control system uses the same technical solutions based on heat and television channels that are used in the Kalina fire control system to modernize the existing generation of tanks. The issue of guided weapons operating on the “fire-and-forget” principle has not been resolved either. At the same time, a high degree of integration of fire control devices with KAZ and OEP protection systems has been achieved, which makes it possible to increase the effectiveness of fire.
In terms of the security of the tank, the separation is mainly due to the installation of the KAZ "Afganit", but the declared characteristics for intercepting the BOPS on these tank samples are hardly achieved. The use of advanced radar and infrared systems solved the problem of fixing and calculating the meeting point of an approaching projectile (ATGM) and fired ammunition. But the task of its guaranteed destruction has not been solved, for this we need fundamentally new damaging ammunition, they are not yet available.
For the declared defeat of the BOPS, according to experts, a fundamentally different damaging ammunition of the "shock core" type with a predetermined flight trajectory is needed by initiating one of the matrix fuses on the rear side of the warhead and with a projectile interception speed of 2000-3000 m / s mounted on the rotary in two planes of the platform and tracking the incoming projectile. As you can see in the photographs of the tank, there is none of this, the turret has rigidly fixed launchers developed in the early 70s with an ammunition delivery speed of about 120 m / s, and they cannot provide a solution to the task. That is, the KAZ does not yet provide guaranteed protection for the tank, especially from an attack from above, and the tank also requires refinement in terms of protection.
"Armata" has one indisputable advantage - the presence of a tank information and control system, making it a network-centric tank, capable of interacting with other tanks and military branches in the process of network-centric combat. The experience of recent military conflicts has revealed new threats to the tank. He is hardly capable of opposing them as a separate combat unit. To counter such threats in the most advanced armies of the world, information and control systems for conducting network-centric combat are being developed, which give a completely different quality. This is especially true with the advent of UAVs, which are hardly advisable to attach to each tank, but such devices in a tank company would significantly increase its capabilities: the transfer of an integrated picture from the battlefield to the unit would expand the "vision" of tank crews.
First of all, tanks are equipped with such systems, for example, in the USA and Germany, the M1A2 and Leopard 2A2 tanks are already equipped with the second generation TIUS, while the Russian army does not yet have such systems. In the 80s, I had to substantiate and develop the basic principles for creating such systems, but the Union collapsed and the work seriously stalled. The information and control system of the tactical level is now being developed by the Sozvezdiye concern, which also includes the Armata tank, but so far, apart from advertising statements, we have not heard about its implementation in the army, and we, being pioneers in their creation, are seriously lagging behind today. The system makes "Armata" the tank of the future, and such a tank should be in the army.
What tanks do the Russian army need?
An analysis of regional and local conflicts of recent decades shows that success in superiority over the enemy at the last stage of conquering a territory is always achieved with the use of tanks - the most effective means of achieving this goal. At the same time, the tank cannot be a universal tool for all types of conflicts.
In a global conflict, when the forces of the main world players, possessing the most advanced technologies in the mass production of weapons, clash, the most advanced tanks and in large numbers will be required, capable of successfully resisting both in large-scale clashes of forces and equipment in large territories with different terrain, and in conditions local collisions in the agglomeration of urban development.
In regional conflicts, depending on the participants, a massive or limited use of tanks may be required, while their technical level should exceed the tanks of a potential enemy.
In local conflicts, the use of tanks is limited by the capabilities of the parties and the conditions of the theater of operations for solving the assigned tasks and, as a rule, a high technical level of tanks is not required, and the current generation of tanks may well satisfy them.
The territory of Russia covers several theaters of operations (Far Eastern, Central Asian, Caucasian, European). And a threat appears in the northern theater of operations, which NATO is trying to reach. All this suggests that the Russian army needs tanks, and in a fairly large number.
What kind of tanks does the Russian army need? Now, according to open information, in the Russian army in combat units in 86 tank battalions there are 2685 tanks of various modifications T-72, T-80, T-90 and about 400 T-72 tanks in training centers. In terms of its technical level, about a quarter has high performance at the level of the latest achievements. These tanks are comparable to Western designs. The rest require major modernization. In addition, many thousands of tanks still produced by the Soviet Union are in storage bases.
To what technical level should tanks in combat units be brought? Apparently, through a major modernization of the main characteristics, the fleet of tanks of about 3000 units in combat units should be unified and brought to the level of T-72B3M and T-90MS in terms of their characteristics and equipment. It makes no sense to produce new T-72 and T-90, production capacities must be loaded with the modernization of previously released tanks and bringing them to the required level and the fulfillment of foreign contracts, which the United States and Germany have been doing for many years.
Thousands of reserve tanks at storage bases must be maintained in a working condition with the characteristics laid down in them for quick use if necessary, as well as for appropriate modernization and replenishment of those out of order in combat units.
Tank "Armata" must be brought to the confirmation of the declared characteristics and put into mass production. There will not be so many such tanks so far, their number will increase over time, while technical interaction with the existing generation of tanks should be ensured, which should be equipped with TIUS. A serious program of modernization of tanks is needed with the installation of digital systems for control of movement, protection, fire and interaction, compatible with the systems of the Armata tank.
With this approach, the Russian army will have three tiers of tanks: advanced, modernized and previous generations. The production cycle of a tank and its component parts and systems is very long, therefore, in reserve at storage bases for a special period, it is necessary to keep, albeit not entirely perfect, but combat-ready tanks, ready in a short time for use in the army or modernization in case of a large-scale regional or global conflict. The quantitative composition of tanks of each tier will be determined by the needs of the army and the state of the international situation, in accordance with which it can be adjusted for each tier.