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Old 03-14-2010, 09:54 PM
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Default Tank Crew Blues


Tank Crew Blues


I have been thinking that after the beginning of 1998, we should expect to see a precipitous drop in the quality of AFV crews. Quite aside from the fact that a lot of these people are going to be dying, there won’t be much chance to practice. The high-tech tank simulators used by Western nations will be pretty much defunct. Fuel for the drivers, a pricey commodity in the pre-war world, will become far too valuable to waste on training. Ditto tank main gun rounds. Even the best tank crew requires regular practice to keep their skills. After the beginning of 1998, the only remotely realistic training these people are likely to get is in combat.

As a result, I think the large-scale battles of 1998 will be executed to a low standard. It will be funny if any of the participants remember how to laugh. With more than fifty percent of the personnel of the average division dead, and given the heavy attrition of headquarters and service personnel one should expect of a war fought with significant numbers of tactical nuclear weapons, a lot of the people in positions of responsibility are going to be doing jobs for which they have received very little training. Granted, US Army officers rarely receive formal training for the variety of jobs they are required to perform during their careers. However, the nuclear exchange will exacerbate that situation. As a result, the NATO and Warsaw Pact forces fighting in Germany and western Czechoslovakia are probably poorly staffed above the company level.

As a result, the situation in Germany during the 1998 fighting would probably make pre-nuke professionals either laugh or cry. Counting in the loss of personnel, the abysmal state of equipment readiness, the low stocks of supplies, and fragile state of the staffs and leadership above the company (or maybe battalion) level, it’s a wonder anything happens at all.

The people least affected by all this are the infantry, I would imagine. With less equipment, they are less affected by the all-encompassing shortages. At the team, squad, and platoon level they are still capable of rehearsing their drills after the nuke exchange. Granted, a lot of them are going to be busy (and dying) in the weeks after the exchange. But it’s a lot less effort to have the light infantry practice than it is the tankers.

As a result, I believe the 1998 fighting will be almost exclusively dominated by light infantry. The only thing keeping them from running the show is that few are likely to have given serious thought to the transition from mechanized to foot mobile warfare during the ’97-’98 winter and the following spring. In all likelihood, the majority on both sides thought the war was over following the exchange of nukes. I can only imagine the reaction of some of the Warsaw Pact commanders as they are told to move their people out.

Tanks and artillery, the big consumers of supplies, will be running on incredibly short tethers. All the pieces that have to work together to get large tonnages of fuel and large-caliber ammunition moved on the battlefield will be working in a very different way than they did in pre-nuke days. The leadership coordinating all this probably will have changed, with a lot of captains doing the jobs of majors and lieutenant colonels and supported by staffs a fraction of the size they once were. I think NATO will be caught off-guard, though they may have received several days’ warning from SF and other deep recon people. As a result, fire support and armor movements will be so limited as to be virtually unrecognizable by pre-nuke standards. All this favors the defender, I think, as the defender already owns the ground.

In the official chronology, 1999 is pretty quiet in Europe. “In Europe, the fronts were static for most of the year. Low troop densities meant that infiltration raids became the most common form of warfare. The ‘front’ ceased to be a line and became a deep occupied zone as troops settled into areas and began farming and small-scale manufacturing to meet their supply requirements.” As a result, the infantry is likely to keep up their overall skill level through constant practice. (Everybody keeps patrolling.) However, this will mean that the NATO offensive of 2000 is likely to be a comedy of errors. Good news for the infantry—at least relatively—but bad news for just about everybody else. Well, at least the tankers will spend a lot of time sitting around as they wait for fuel, ammo, or the orders to move someplace.



Matt Wiser

Wouldn't the guys in the Gulf be somewhat better off? After all, there's some resupply from Israel, and the "under the counter" aid from the French (although I'm sure CINC-CENTCOM is glad for it, but wishing privately that the French would just go away) Although the personnel situation regarding replacements is the same, the tankers on both sides still get to train and are used more often than their counterparts in Europe are. As far as parts, armor everywhere is limited to battlefield salvage. Personnel-I'd give the rear-echelon surplus folks a choice, infantry, artillery, or armor, but give the armor people (guys and girls in the T2K world) a chance to pick the folks most likely to cut it.

Matt Wiser


That was largely my thought as I reorganized the 5th Mech for the spring offensive of 2000, though I still had a few "heavy task froces" in the division. Most of the fuel went to the heavies as well as to the land trains keeping the offensive moving with the limited supplies available.
When you die, we're splitting up your gear!

Kicking ass is manditory,
taking names is optional.




Taking the above onto account (about the constant training required for DATs), doesn't that make the quick response of the Sov 4th Gurads Tank Army to the 5th Mech's attack a bit of a deus ex machina feel? I don't know....

Anthony N. Emmel

"One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine…”
From a Soviet Junior Lt.’s Notebook


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Matt, I agree with you completely that the fuel situation in the Gulf would probably lead to more driving time for all the fighting vehicle drivers. Ammunition might not be in any greater supply, nor spare parts. However, fuel probably would not be the most limiting factor on the use of military vehicles in the Gulf.

Lord_Kjeran, I think the 4th Guards Tank Army already was scheduled for an attack through west central Poland and into Germany when NATO launched its last strategic offensive. The fact that the fuel from Ploesti (a month's production) had been earmarked for the 4th GTA indicates that the Soviets had been thinking about this for a while. It's possible that the Soviets had intended 4th GTA to be a theater-level mobile reserve. I certainly couldn't prove otherwise. But I do believe the intent for 4th GTA was to drive into Germany to give the Pact (okay, the Soviet Union) the greatest possible advantage before the onset of the time in which no strategic action would be possible by either side.

Going a little further with the issue of supplies, I have been thinking that in the months leading up to the Third German Army offensive of 2000 into northern Poland, SACEUR and the leadership of the various national armies put a lot of effort into getting supplies and materiel from NATO formations not directly participating in the offensive. This isn't an assignment I would want. Imagine going to the main cantonment of 4th US Infantry Division (Mech) to obtain spare parts, ammunition, and the like from their already-depleted stockpile. No sir, I would not want that job at all. However, it would be a good litmus test of the willingness of the various division commanders to obey central authority.



El Tee
Space Cowboy


I wouldn't want to be the one assigned to getting supplies from other divisions in cantonments. At the Division/Brigade level, if control exists over component battalion or company units, the willingness to relinquish supplies would be varied, depending on what was needed, and what situation the unit was in. If there was the need to root out marauders or bandits nearby, for example, the unit would likely keep all of the "spare" supplies they had, by force if necessary. Again, that would depend on the unit's loyalty to higher command. The forces in Europe would be better off than in say, Korea or the Gulf, owing to what is defined in canon as a semi-functioning command structure.

"Hi, I'm from Army HQ. I've been ordered to take all the spares that you aren't in need of. So go ahead, load up all your 120mm rounds right on the flatbed over there and...hey, wait, no need to point your rifles at me, guys. Guys?!?"

I envision the general feeling after the nuclear exchanges to be one of shock; most would be wondering what happened to their families back home, and grieving those lost in the battlefield around them. As the reality sets in that the large scale battles of perhaps only a year earlier will no longer be possible, and the transition from resource dependent (oil, spares, etc.) war machinery to more self-sufficient warfighting equipment is ongoing, what units remain fight a series of feints, probes, withdrawals - slowly realizing that they are using up the last remnants of modern equipment. What remains of the tank formations would be pooled for major operations (per Webstral's suggestion) due to lack of fuel, ammo and parts.
El Tee
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