Fully upgraded Russian tanks - a threat to western tanks?

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Alotofquestions, May 1, 2015.

  1. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    In Operation Desert Storm, western tanks proved very effective versus Soviet built tanks.

    I have heard that one of the contributing factors to the massive defeat the Iraqi tanks was poor training, tactics, and old equipment.

    Hypothetically, how would a tank such as an Abrams, Challenger 2, or Leopard fare against a Russian T-72 that was firing anti-tank missiles out of its cannon instead of shells? My understanding is that the anti-tank missiles have a very long range and would be able to destroy a western tank.

    What about if it was a T-80 or T-90?

    I am making an assumption here that Russian tanks are equiped with better targeting and sighting systems than Iraqi tanks were. As well as better training and tactics. If this is incorrect, please let me know.

    Overall, I am curious how western armies would handle the Russian military if they were sent into Ukraine.
  2. In theory, we would need control of the air first. Without control of the airspace around a battle zone, ground control is much harder. With control of the air, the UN (which I will use as the "western powers") has access to a wide array of weapons to counter armoured threats on the ground from A-10 Warthogs doing strafing runs to unmanned UAVs with missiles on them. So, according to modern tactics and doctrine, initially I would doubt that there would be a massive tank vs. tank battles that would be fought on the ground. Also, any battles between these two forces would have air support from the dominating air power.

    Now with that being said, lets look at a one vs one battle of an M1 vs T-72. In a straight up slug fest I would put the M1 on top any day of the week. However, there are multiple circumstances that can change the outcome of any battle with the element of surprise being at the top of the list. If the T-72 was able to get within range of any UN main battle tank with their missiles, it will more than likely destroy them. Now you must remember though, many UN nations have anti tank missile vehicles like the Bradley in their arsenal that can do the same damage to the Russians.

    In the end this can be a "what if" game with variables going with either side. All I have to say is that if the UN and Russia does go at it, it will be WW3 without a doubt. I look forward to hearing what others opinions are on this subject.
  3. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    Thank you very much for your reply. I am also looking forward to hearing others opinions on it.

    Regarding the M1 vs T-72, don't the T-72 missiles have a longer range than the M1?

    As far as I can tell, Russia severly downgrades equipment that is intended for export. Fully upgraded Russian tanks would have Laser rangefinders, FLIR thermal imaging sites, and fire control. I would like to add that I have no idea what any of things things really do (seriously, what is fire control?), but assume somewhere amongst the list of technology they have is the same technology American tanks had that allowed them to see Iraqi tanks in the nights from long distances (FLIR thermal imaging sites?).

    There would also be the Arena active protection system which would be able to defend against incoming projectiles.

    I got all this information off wikipedia. I realise there will be much more knowledgable people here that will already be familiar with this.

    Ever since I was a kid, I was under the impression that Soviet equipment in general was rather low quality (the preference being for "more" rather than "better"). After reading wikipedia (I know it is not the most reliable source of information), I am left wondering how UN tanks would handle an enemy that has the ability to see them from a long distance, long range missiles, and the arena system.
  4. As far as I know, I don't think M1's have been fitted with missiles. This is, however, the reason I brought the Bradleys into the equation as they are equipped with anti tank missiles and would be incorporated into the armoured units in the engagement. The term "fire control system" is a bunch of stuff linked together through a computer like radar, gps, and gun stabilizing components. This system works to help ensure hits on the target by providing accurate data to the gunner and commander.
    In regards to the quality of their equipment, yes their exported tanks are super basic models. It would be like exporting a Ford Escort and keeping a BMW for yourself. Their technology has come a far way since the end of the Cold War and is comparable to the M1, Leopards and Challengers used by the UN. This is especially the case with the newest T-90s rolling off of the assembly lines packed with upgrades. It would be an interesting match up thats for sure.
    Alotofquestions likes this.
  5. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    Wow, I am amazed by your answer! When I decided to post here, I honestly expected someone to point out something really obvious that I had missed.

    I have always just assumed that NATO tanks are far superior to Russian/Soviet tanks - to the point that victory on the NATO side was certain.

    My thinking was that the modern Russian tanks would destroy the M1 with missiles well outside of the range of the M1's main gun, and the Bradley would be taken out with the 125mm (the Bradley TOW being ineffective versus the Arena active protection system). However, I genuinely expected that you would have an easy explanation as to why my thinking was flawed.

    Russian tanks vs NATO tanks in urban environments

    How would Russian tanks handle Urban combat compared to a NATO tank?

    Aren't Russian tanks rather small compared to NATO tanks? I am assuming that the extra size/weight is due to thicker/superior armour on NATO tanks. Is this correct?

    Are the T-90s well armoured on all sides? On top?
  6. I certainly don't see anything flawed with your thinking. To simplify things we will go straight up T90 vs. M1 but then it comes down to the effectiveness of the missile vs the effectiveness of the M1's reactive armour. This data, I do not have.

    Urban combat does not usually allow for huge MBTs however they do squeeze in from time to time. So if they did come into contact with each other in an urban environment, they would both be at a disadvantage. When it comes to dimensions they are pretty close all around, within inches. The weight however has the M1 at a disadvantage with an extra 15 tonnes at least. As far as I know they armour would be on all surfaces just varying in thickness and yes the thinnest would be on the top.
  7. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    Regarding the urban environment, I meant fighting an insurgency. The tanks would not be coming up against each other in this example.

    I know urban environments are the worst for tanks, but presumably, the extra 15 tons that an Abrams has is due to its extra armour - armour that has been penetrated by RPG-29s from the front. So I would assume that a T-90 would struggle even more in an urban environment.
  8. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    Those T-72 the Iraqis used in the First Gulf War were downgraded export version. They were not even as good as the T-72 the Russians used in Russia, not to mention even the standard T-72 in Russia were already being replaced by T-80, T-90 etc. more advanced tanks. It wasn't a good comparison of Russia tank vs. Western tank. One more thing, the Iraqis were using steel perpetrators... and they were poorly trained and coordinated.
  9. Banjo

    Banjo Member

    It is important to keep in mind what is from all reports are the ramshackle nature and spotty maintenance standards for equipment and the poor morale of the Russian army in considering any aspect of warfare. The average life expectancy in Russia is down among third world levels, meaning alcoholism, smoking and other deleterious habits are formed young and have early impact. Beatings and other abuse of recruits is said to be endemic.
  10. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    Anti Tank missiles have had their day. Modern composite armour has made them much less effective. Since tanks were invented there has been a gun vs armour race which the gun has usually won. I include Anti Tank missiles in the "gun" catagory here. Since the introduction of modern composite armour, armour has made a comeback, the race is not over, it's just that armour is back in contention. Only when we have modern tanks engaging in a classic open country "fist fight" will we be able to judge what the current situation is. Tanks in close/urban country will always be vunerable to infantry weapons and the current "insurgency" conflicts do not give a true reflection of the tank's capabilities.
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
  11. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    I don't believe there is any tank completely immune to anti-tank missiles. It really depends on what type of anti-tank missile it was, as well as where it hit on the tank. Some anti-tank missiles are designed to hit the top of the tank where the armor is the weakest rather than hit its strong front armor.

    One thing I don't understand is, why the tanks used by US military still have a 4th person as a loader instead of using automatic loader. It is slower and takes one more person to operate the tank compare to Russian counterparts.
  12. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    In regards to the fourth crewman? A crew is needed not just to operate the tank but to service it as well. In war you have to crew the tank, stand guard, mount radio watch, dig trench's, cook food, get some sleep! there is a host of things the tank crew have to do, and a three man crew makes that virtually impossible to achieve. If a tank throws a track, a four man crew can fix it, a three man crew would not be able to do it and would have to wait for assistance. Three man crews would drop dead with exhaustion within 72 hours of a war starting, there are supposed to be spare crews waiting to replace the tired crews so the war can be continued. Those with any military experience will tell you that once the shooting starts the one thing you can be sure of is that those "guaranteed" relief crews will not be available. Don't let recent conflicts lasting only a few hours fool you, plan for a short war and your planning to lose the war! As for ATGW? I never said tanks were immune! just less vunerable, yes the top armour is thin and vunerable but the top side attacking ATGM are few on the ground and expensive.
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
  13. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    Regarding the Russian troops, I am aware there are serious moral problems in the Russian armed forces.

    However, in my example, lets assume that the Russians have deployed their naval infantry, or some other military unit that does not suffer moral problems as severe as units in the regular army.

    I don't know if the naval infantry put a greater emphasis on maintenance than regular units. That is an interesting question and I will try to find an answer and post it here.

    In this hypothetical urban environment, the opposing side would have RPG-29s. I have heard that these have penetrated the front armour of an abrams.

    My hypothetical takes place in a Ukraine city. With Russian forces fighting an insurgency of pro-Ukraine fighters in Crimea, or American forces fighting pro-Russian fighters in a Ukraine controlled part of Ukraine.

    Because this is an urban combat example, even basic AT weapons can be fired at the top of tanks if the attacker is in an elevated position (on the top of a building).

    @aghart, is radio watch just listening to the radio? Can't that be done passively (ie just leave the radio on while you go about your other duties)?

    What sort of maintenance would a tank crew do while out in the field?

    What sort of tanks did you use to operate?
  14. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    Even when out of contact with the enemy, someone must be monitoring the radio at all times,that means sat in the turret, awake, pen and paper in hand ready to take down any messages. Communication is vital but to avoid being pin pointed by the enemy when out of contact, radio communication is always minimised and having to repeat messages just increases the danger to the unit. When out of contact British tank units would disperse into small "troop" locations called "hides", it means you are a smaller target and less likely to be discovered or attacked by air/artillery if you are discovered. Even super powers do not have the resources to attack every grouping of enemy forces, they will attack regimental sized or higher groups as a priority and ignore a troop of 3 tanks. It does mean though that smaller dispersed elements means more people listening to the radio for orders.

    Tanks require a lot of maintenance, checking tracks, road wheels and suspension units is a daily task, daily engine tasks including checking levels, replacing filters, loading food, ammunition and fuel.Cleaning weapons and repairing many small items which can and do go wrong on a daily basis.

    I operated on Chieftain tanks.
    Last edited: May 11, 2015
  15. I wasn't on a tracked tank but I was a driver of a Coyote reconnaissance vehicle for 2 years. Sometimes even a crew of 4 doesn't seem like enough, lol. If I wasn't driving it I was tinkering on it, lol.
  16. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    What would happen if you went a week without doing maintenance on the tank? Would it still be likely to run? I mean for the Russians even if they do not consider maintenance a high priority, sure the tanks are more likely to work in battle than not.

    I can see how tanks breaking down would be annoying, but changing the course of a battle?

    Also, in terms of a tanks tracks, is it inevitable that if someone hits your tracks with an RPG that they will fall off? Or just a possibility.

    Something that amazed me is that in Somalia during the "Blackhawk Down" incident, unarmoured Humvees and trucks made it through the city even though they were hit constantly by RPGs and bullets. Aren't Humvees and trucks the equivalent of a tanks weakest points (or worse), but in the case of the Humvee/truck, it is weak all around - and yet they got their crews and passengers out of the city (although they did take many casualties.

    If the convoy was replaced with Russian Tanks (say the T-90), and IFVs (BMP-2), it seems to me that the situation would have been much better for the Americans. Obviously it is unlikely that Russian forces would be sent to help Americans in this situation (but it is a hypothetical).

    So if you can imagine that in the "Blackhawk Down" incident, the trucks and humvees are replaced with T-90 and BMP2s, what do you imagine would be different? If it did work out better for the American forces, how is that Urban battle different from other Urban battles?

    My assumption is that their would be considerably less loss of life if tanks and IFVs were involved and that no tanks or IFVs would be lost.
  17. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    Two things would be different, 1st the convoy would take fewer casualties due to armour protection, 2nd, the insurgent's would take heavier casualties due to the increased firepower of the convoy. RPG's (with the exception of the RPG 29) are now virtually useless against armoured vehicles, due to modern composite armour and anti RPG devices such as bar armour. Insurgents taking cover in buildings would find their day ruined when a 125mm high explosive shell turns said building into a pile of rubble.
  18. machineryman

    machineryman New Member

    I might agree with you about the strength of the russians' tanks as they have a really good equipment built on it. But it's also true that the power of a tank depends also on the training of the tank driver and it's discipline.

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