Channeling History….. Tanks, History, Ukraine.
The tank is a weapon of unique capacity and design. As war rages in Ukraine and Russia’s imperialist thirst refuses to abate, new weapons are entering the carnage. On February 24, 2023 the German and American governments decided to send the globe’s most modern tanks into the fray. Tanks, since WWI have dictated many aspects of ground combat and, on paper, defined a country’s military potential. Sometimes their utility is grossly overrated, see Gulf Wars I and II.
The Holt Caterpillar tractor was invented in the early 20th century and used in LA aqueduct construction as early as 1908. The British were brainstorming ways to neutralize the death sentence of ‘no man’s land’. They imagined using the Holt with mounted guns, armor plating and some other modest design alterations. Around 2,000 Holt 75s along with 698 Holt 120s and 63 Holt 60s saw military use during the war. The French Schneider CA1 and Saint-Chamond and German A7V tanks were based on Holt tractors. (Classic Caterpillar Crawlers) The original iteration of the tank was 18,000 pounds and some were built in England. WWI tanks were clumsy and awkward. The potentiality was the idea. By WWII the technology evolved.
During the second world war tanks dictated outcomes from Al-alamein to Kursk. British Matildas, Crusader and Valentines were used extensively from 1940-1943, especially in the Maghreb. The introduction of American Grants and Shermans immediately altered the calculus on battlefields throughout Europe and Africa. German tanks were the forward anvil of the blitzkrieg. Their Panzer I and II did most of the damage in Poland. By July 1942 Nazi command knew they needed an updated, heavier bigger caliber model. The Henschel company and the Porsche company offered designs to Hitler, he chose the Henschel version and the Tiger I went into production. The Soviet T-34 necessitated the new design after its success at Kursk.
The battle ate Kursk was the largest tank competition ever. There were 6,000 tanks involved. Soviet victory here resulted in German withdrawal from the Russian front and the invent of the Tiger I and II. In Korea and Vietnam, the terrain had changed.
The North Koreans used the Soviet T 34-85 tanks. The Americans used M26A1Pershings and Shermans and Chaffees in the Kore. The war was brutal and cold and resulted in a stalemate. The terrain in Vietnam made tanks less viable but they were utilized successfully by the Americans in the south. The Gulf wars represented a funeral of sorts for 20th century tank effectiveness and technology.
M60 tanks, older units, were first used by the USA in Gulf War I. These USA models humbled and dominated the battlefield. The army of Saddam Hussein look formidable on paper. His Babylon Lions or T-72s were alleged to be remarkable battlefield tools. American aircraft decimated them. As air superiority evolved (targeting, firepower, immediacy, drones), tank effectiveness diminished.
Putin’s tanks have been running out of gas, time and relevance. The ability of the Ukrainians to fashion and procure weaponry has proved highly effective. The Military Balance 2021 database said that Russian storage facilities had around 10,200 tanks, The Kyiv Independent reported in September 2022. Newsweek was not able to independently verify the database figure and reached out to Russia's Defense Ministry for confirmation.
It is unlikely most of those tanks are operational and the crews to operated them all do not exist. The Ukraine war is a year old and may go on for many more. The introduction of M1 Abrams and Leopard II tanks may or may not prove an immediate advantage. Moscow is flying few piloted aircraft on the battlefield. This could increase their effectiveness. Training Ukrainians to use these machines effectively, repairs and responsible possession are issues concerning Berlin and DC. The war is growing in scope and becoming a laboratory of modern weaponry.