Tanks: How do I learn more about them - beyond "popular" info?

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

  1. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    Wikipedia and popular military books provide a lot of information on tanks, but they don't really explain what the information means or it's significance. For example:

    A T-72 has a 125mm cannon, and an M1A2 has 120mm cannon. Is the extra 5mm on the T-72 gun significant?

    There are three anti tank rounds that I am aware of: SABOT, HEAT, and HESH.

    Why have three different rounds that do the exact same thing?

    A book will tell you that tank X has a "spall liner", but not why HESH rounds are still used (even though it seems that every tank I have ever read about has a spall liner to protect against HESH).

    Tanks often have less armour at the rear and top - but the rear and top is armoured. I would love to know what the armour is suppose to protect against as it seems that a tank can be easily taken out from behind and on top by very basic weaponry.

    What is rear and top armour suppose to protect against if not from RPGs? Is it just to protect against small arms?

    Where should I go to get more indepth information on tanks?

    In particular, I would like to be in a position to make an informed comparison between an M1 and a fully upgraded T-90. I am not just concerned with which tank is better, but with how much better one tank is over the other and in what environments they excell in.

    Thank you for any help.
  2. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Hello and welcome to the forum. And thank you for asking so many interesting questions. They will provide meat for an interesting discussion, or so I hope. We have several AFV experts in our midst but as I am not one I shall leave it to them to answer most of them.

    I will try to give information were I can.

    You may want to go to a better regional public library and ask the staff Profession Librarian where the area's Government Document repository is located. This marvelous mine of information should have all the latest publications, journals and magazines on a wide variety of topics, from bee-keeping to economic forecasts. They should carry the lastest word on Armoured Warfare theory, at least the non-classified information. I used to dip my toes into this huge pool, but that was a quarter-Century ago. Back then there was still a Soviet Union, and I found English language translations of rather current Soviet theory documents.

    You ask several questions asking for quality evaluations. These may be difficult to get satifactory answers as you are brushing up against classification restrictions. As mere civilians there is some information not meant for you, if for no other reason than that the authorities don't want everyone to know that they too are in the dark and clueless. There are times when even the 'experts' are surprized by real life experience. There was a time in the Vietnam Experience when the M113 Personnel Carrier was introduced with an idea of increasing infantry mobility. It was a great idea in the USA, but a misery in S.E. Asia as the wet terrain saw the M113 all get bogged-down.

    You ask as to the 120mm verse the 125mm gun. My answer is they are basicly the same weapon on the battlefield, but I am no expert. As I understand it the question is the quality of ammo. And you ask of the differences of Sabot, HEAT and HESH. As a non-expert I know there ARE difference, but I will leave it to our experts. I do know there is a difference in the manner at which the round approaches to problem facing them, as well as a cost difference.

    Remember: "Moving foxholes tend to attract the eye." -- Bill Malden.
  3. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    I will certainly look into the government document depository. Although I suspect that our ones will be less detailed militarily than a United States one.

    I am geniunely amazed at the things that I have been learning recently. I don't know where I learned what I thought I knew, but I was under the impression the USSR (and now Russia) had poor equipment and training in every regard.

    Recently I have learned a hell of a lot more about Russian equipment. This is one of the reasons that I have so many questions. Modern Russian tanks seem to be camparable in technology to NATO tanks.

    But perhaps there is a difference how effective the technology is at doing what it was designed to do. For example, the the thermal imaging, range finders, fire control may be unreliable compared to the alternatives.

    I have not been able to find any information regarding the use of DU by Russian tank makers, do you know if the Russians use DU armour?

    How do Russian tanks compare to Chinese tanks? I always thought that the Chinese had simply made a cheaper version (and less effective) of Russian tanks.

    EDIT: I just came across the US Government repository online... WOW!!!! This information is incredible. How on Earth did I not know about this until now.
    Last edited: May 2, 2015
  4. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    You are welcome to the knowledge I shared. I find there are also always something you can learn from others, that no one knows everything, but collectively we know quite a bit if we pool our knowledge.

    I have asked the DU-armour question several times of several people and have gotten a consistent responce. DU armour is possible, in theory, but it really is not suited for AFV armour. DU is a "soft" metal, comparative to Pb (lead). Pb armour for AFVs is also possible but no one makes Pb armour. DU, is still expensive, weak, heavy, and still slightly radioactive. And DU tends to ignite (fire/combustion) when struck with a hard enough blow, which is okay for round, but bad for armour.

    Russian AFVs: as was stated by another someplace, the Russian tend to manufacture good equipment for themselves but lesser quality, visually identical equipment for export.
  5. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    http://www.tankmuseum.org/home The Tank Museum at Bovington is a good place to start . As far as the ammuntion is concerned, Sabot is a Super Velocity Kinetic Energy round which uses it's speed to punch a hole in the enemy armour and destroy it. It travels at such a high speed that a first round hit/kill is highly probable.This is the most efficient and effective anti tank round available to a tank today. HEAT rounds are chemical energy rounds which have been used to arm hand held A/T weapons such as RPG and Anti Tank Guided Weapons (Missiles) as well as tank rounds for many years. It does not rely on speed but just needs to hit the target to be effective. However,modern armour such as Chobham means that HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) rounds are much less effective than they used to be and are likely not to be able to penetrate the thick frontal armour of the tanks of the leading nations. HESH, (High Explosive Squash Head) is a dual purpose ammunition with an Anti Tank and high explosive capability. It's Anti Tank role is now obselete but it is still effective against light armour vehicles and non armoured targets.

    Tanks cannot have maximum protection everywhere and are not invunerable, their main armour belt is at the front which is expected to be the area most likely to be visible to an enemy. The weaker top and side armour is there to protect it against small arms fire only. Tanks are ideal in a fluid, high movement operation in open ground where they can use there strengths to the utmost. They are vunerable in close country where they need infantry support to prevent them being vunerable to the very basic weaponry you describe. As for info on the M1 and T90? your not going to get this from any official source, all you will get is the personal opionion of people, most of whom have no real knowledge of the true capability of each vehicle, they will tell you what they "think" is the best vehicle and why. As for main armament size? 120mm/125mm does not really make a lot of difference, the muzzel velocity is what matters.
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  6. Alotofquestions

    Alotofquestions New Member

    Depleted uranium armour is used on the M1A2 Abrams so it must have some advantage.

    Thanks for the link to the tank museum site, it was very interesting to browse through.

    Is there a unit of measurement for tank armour effectiveness? So that one can compare 30mm of "good" (lets say chobham) armour with 80mm of "weak" (say aluminium) armour. Even though chobham is better than aluminium, I cannot tell if the extra 50mm of aluminium would make it superior to the chobham.

    It would be nice if there was something like:

    1mm chobham = 1 "protective unit" (pu)
    1mm aluminium = 1/8 pu

    That would mean in the example above that 80mm of aluminium would only have 10pu versus 30pu for the chobham armour. The chobham armour would still be stronger than the aluminium even though it is 50mm less thick.

    Obviously the angle of armour would have to be taken into accout as well.
  7. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    The exact make up and performance of these new composite armour's is secret, your not going to get the answers to your questions regarding this I'm afraid.
  8. vashstampede

    vashstampede Active Member

    Chinese tanks used to (decades ago) be completely copy of Russian tanks. Started with T-54 if I am not mistaken. And the Chinese copy was Type 59 (again if I am not mistaken). After the split between China and USSR in the 1960s, the make full copy was out of question. Later Chinese tanks still try to base off Russian models, but since they didn't have the access to the real thing, all they could do is to "base off" rather than making the exactly thing.

    It changed since 1990s. After seeing how easily the Iraqi tanks were wiped out (some of which were sold to Saddam by China), China started to modernize their military.
    Their latest tank is Type 99. Although some say it is based of Russian design, its turret is clearly of western style. So at least it is getting features from both sides on the top of their own.

    While all features look good on paper, there is no real combat history for these tanks, so it is hard to judge their true capability.
  9. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    I found (re-discovered?) an interesting video:


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