During the year, the media actively discussed the problems of technical equipment of tank forces. Specialists and military leaders evaluated the prospects for tank building in Russia, analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of domestic and foreign tanks. There was a heated debate on the possibility of acquiring foreign military vehicles for the Russian Ground Forces.
But whatever technical capabilities were incorporated into the design of the tank, they are realized through the actions of the crew. Experience shows that the increase in the technical capabilities of each new model of armored weapons, that is, an increase in the combat potential in comparison with the previous one, fluctuates within 5 – 15 percent. The tank crew, depending on its level of training, can realize the combat capabilities of the vehicle from 30 to 100 percent. Therefore, improving the system of manning tank forces and combat and personnel training is a key issue for the modernization of tank forces and the Armed Forces.
Not just a driver
Modern tank is a complex technical complex. He is literally crammed with weapons, instruments, mechanisms. The level of training of the tank crew at the same time should be quite high. For example, the calculation of the 122-mm artillery gun is six people, the portable ATGM complex — two, the 12,7-mm machine gun — two, the 7,62-mm machine gun — one. Total - 11 people. All these weapons are installed in a tank with three crew members.
Another example. The aircraft for combat is being prepared by about 20 people, three members of the tank crew prepare the combat vehicle independently (loading ammunition, preparing weapons, maintenance, including refueling, etc.).
The crew must know the structure of all weapons, the rules of firing, have a stable practical skills and training weapons, and its combat use, as well as operation and troubleshooting.
Another major reason for the need for a high level of training of tankers is the complexity of each tank specialty, its difference from similar forces in other troops.
Take, for example, the driver. This is not a simple vehicle driver. He must have the skills to drive an 40-ton cross country vehicle and overcome obstacles in a convoy and in battle formation. As a mechanic, I am obliged to ensure technical readiness and operability of the machine, to be able to eliminate at least the simplest technical faults.
In addition, the driver-participant of fire destruction: conducts reconnaissance of targets by observation, gives target designation to the gunner of the gun, corrects the fire. It creates favorable conditions for firing: when driving a tank on uneven, rugged terrain, he must choose a mode of movement so that the hull oscillations are minimal and thus firing accuracy is achieved.
The mechanic-driver with his skill ensures the survivability of the combat vehicle. In a real battle, the movement of the tank is a "ragged run" - the movement from shelter to shelter with a constant change of course and speed. This requires special driving skills.
After the Battle of Kursk, a special research group immediately collected statistical data on the issues of the failure of our tanks. Various questions were explored: the number of hits that combat vehicles received, in which planes, from what ranges, how many caught fire, etc. It turned out that on 30 percent of the wrecked tanks there was first or second gear. The driver mechanics, who did not have sufficient gearshift skills due to a small driving experience, were afraid to stop the engine and immobilize the car during the battle. Moving only in the lower gears, they did not use all the technical capabilities of the tank and easily became the targets of destruction for the enemy tanks. Immediately after this research, the decision is made to increase the number of hours for training driver-mechanics by one and a half times.
Interchangeability and autonomy
An important requirement for a tank crew is interchangeability. In addition to mastering their profession, each member of the crew must master related specialties: driver mechanics - have the skills of firing from tank weapons, gunner guns - driving a combat vehicle, and the tank commander - be ready to replace both mechanics and gunner.
The complexity of the quality training of tankers is also related to the autonomy of the actions of the crew as a whole and each of its members individually. In combat, motorized infantry acts in a chain or as part of a fire (combat) group, an artilleryman is included in the crew, a sailor is in a compartment as part of a post. Next to them is the commander. If, for example, a motorized rifle has a machine gun jammed, the squad leader or platoon commander will approach it and will be able to assist in eliminating the delay, including encouraging morally. Even in the armored personnel carrier and the BMP it is possible to move from one branch to another.
In the tank, the driver is isolated from other crew members. Having closed the hatch, he remains alone. The tank commander and gunner, while in the same fighting compartment, are isolated from each other. A tanker can only count on himself. Figuratively speaking, everyone is fighting in a trench, and the tankman is in a single trench. Therefore, the level of individual and psychological training of each tanker must be an order of magnitude higher than in other troops. He must have the knowledge, skills and abilities that allow him to act independently, without anyone's control and care.
Half a year of professional service
The problem of the quality of training of specialists in tank forces did not arise today or even yesterday: it was always very acute. We have traditionally spared no expense on the development and production of new tanks, but at the same time we have saved heavily on the quality of training for the specialists who exploited them.
In the Soviet Army, the training of driver mechanics, gunner operators and tank commanders was carried out in training divisions (specialized tank schools) under a five-month program. The number of training platoons was 20 – 30 cadets, which did not contribute to individual training. From yesterday's schoolchildren, who often knew little Russian, specialists were trained for the most complex machines at that time - T-80, T-64B, T-72B.
The terms of mastering the program were very tight. So, for example, the gunner of the gun carried out an exercise in shooting a month after starting the training - from the spot, after two - from a short stop, after three - on the move (all from a loose shaft), on the fifth month - on the move by a regular projectile. During the time spent in the training unit, the tank commander and gunner (gunner-operator) carried out one or two firing with a regular shell (at a rate of three shells). The driver received driving experience 250 kilometers. Upon completion of training in the training unit for a graduate cadet, the exam was a simple formality: whether or not he passed, he would still be appointed to the position of gunner, mechanic or tank commander.
Later, after graduating from the training unit, the tanker served in combat units for one and a half years. The commanders received "raw" specialists and were forced to bring their individual training to an acceptable level, while at the same time solving the tasks of harmonizing the units. On average, 6 – 12 regular shells for a year and 10 – 15 shells per year were used by the crew to shoot during tactical exercises with live firing. The aforementioned norm was differentiated according to the operational mission of military formations. Thus, in the groups of troops deployed in the territory of the Warsaw Pact countries, it could be one and a half to two times higher, in the internal military districts, as well as in the reduced military units, slightly lower. The annual experience of practical driving mechanic was about 300 kilometers.
At best, in the conditions of intensive combat training, the formation of a specialist was completed after a year of service in the line unit (by the end of the third period of service). That is, in fact, as a trained specialist tanker served for six months.
Ready for surface use
In one of the reports of 1988, the study of this problem directly concluded that the level of training of tankers did not match the complexity of the tanks. It was noted that graduates of training units are prepared for the operation of combat vehicles at best on 30 – 40 percent and then only to their most superficial operation, without detailed knowledge of systems and complexes. Regarding tank crews, the following assessment was made in the report: “Given the low resource and ammunition consumption rates due to their high cost, the number of crew training on training and combat vehicles over the two years of service is so small that it does not ensure the formation and consolidation of sustainable combat work skills the realization of the fighting qualities of the crew’s crew does not exceed 60 percent on average. ”
It was not in our favor that there was a comparison of the quality of the training of specialists in the armies of potential adversaries (developed countries) and Soviet tankers. NATO prepared more intensively. For example, in the crew during the year we made from 100 to 150 shots. At the same time, 40 – 60 shells per year were assigned to the individual training of the gunner’s guns (for the implementation of shooting practice exercises). The rest were shot during the company, battalion or brigade tactical exercises. In the US Army, the gunner of the gun carried out four crew exercises during the year as part of the crew during the day and as much at night with a charge of seven to eight regular shells. For the training of drivers for the year in NATO countries, 600 – 800 kilometers were allocated (in the USA, 800 miles).
The training system has paid off
If the annual resource and ammunition rates allocated for training tankers of the Armed Forces of the USSR and NATO armies were somehow comparable, then, taking into account the organization of military service for citizens, the difference in training tankers was significant. In NATO countries, armies were recruited on a contract basis, the average service life was three to five years. During this time, the tank crews gained practical experience, as a result of which the average gunner of the gun was shooting 150 – 250 shells. The overall practical driving experience of the driver was at least 1800 kilometers.
In the Soviet army, similar figures were significantly lower. This is due to the fact that the period of military service is two years, every six months the staff was updated by a third, the more experienced left, and newcomers from training units took their place. Therefore, in the course of their service, the gunners of guns shot regular artillery shots at 40 – 50, the driving experience of the driver was about 600 kilometers. With these indicators, they went to the reserve. And their NATO colleagues for two or three years continued to improve their professionalism.
Admittedly, this state of affairs was due to objective reasons. The tank park of the USSR was over 50 thousands of units. The country carried enormous costs to ensure that tank crews were trained for so many combat vehicles. A certain optimum was determined, which allowed keeping the training of tankers at the minimum acceptable level. The calculation was to in the event of a military conflict in the initial period to knock out a probable opponent of professional tank crews, forcing him to put reservists in tanks. The level of training of the latter and our tankists roughly coincided. In this case, using numerical superiority in tanks, we would be able to gain dominance on the battlefield.
On the whole, the system of training tankers that existed in the Soviet army under conditions of limited resources and the presence of a large tank fleet was optimal and provided mass training for tank specialists. There was no alternative to this under those conditions. And whatever assessments are given to this system, it has fully justified itself, allowing the Armed Forces to solve the tasks of strategic deterrence.
Today, the tank fleet of Russia is significantly reduced. It would seem that economic prerequisites have been created for moving away from the system of mass training of specialists for tank forces, for its cardinal restructuring, for putting quality parameters at the forefront. However, it must be stated that the quality of training compared with the Soviet army has not changed for the better.