Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Developing military technologies: An aside

One of the specific what-ifs in the previous "Developing Military Technologies" article looks like it's becoming a real possibility. British Aerospace Engineering is apparently pushing a rail gun to replace the chain fed auto cannon on the US Army's Bradly Fighting Vehicle.

Railgun pitched for Army upgrade to Bradley Fighting Vehicle - Washington Times:

'via Blog this'

As an aside, there's also a video showcasing a DARPA agility concept armored vehicle that was drawing a lot of verbiage from online pundits a few weeks back. The video, and a lot of that commentary, have annoyed the hell out of me.

Dodging or blocking a slow-moving RPG round traveling at a hundred or so meters per second? Possible, I suppose. As long as the crew has some great seats to absorb the whiplash.

Dodging a tank main gun shot based on detection of the round in flight? Or even the light flare from the muzzle flash. Are you people fucking high? Seriously, that's a projectile moving at close to Mach 5 in some instances.

Good luck with it, I suppose. And with not turning your vehicle crew into jelly while trying to accelerate fast enough to get out of the way on any axis.

But that's all minor stuff. What really bugs me is the is the following graphic that accompanied the video:

I mean, but damn. Have the people who came up with this spent anytime around actual armor units? Probably not. Use of terrain for cover and concealment, not sky-lining the vehicle by moving over ridge lines, making use of hull down positions and camouflage, and moderating speed and engine noise, have all been part of the tanker's bag of tricks to "avoid detection" since at least World War II.

Likewise when it comes to avoiding engagement. Armor crews have been seeking to slip around unnecessary fights or unfavorable conditions by making use of one of the tank's best features for well over half a century. Namely that of mobility. Often that has taken the form of bypassing enemy defenses or units by choosing unlikely avenues of approach. Risky avenues that may even be constricted, but which provide concealment from prying eyes and even ears so long as the vehicles are traveling slowly and deliberately. It's dangerous, but it's also allowed armor units to emerge into an enemy's rear or flank with little if any warning.

Then of course there's the use of speed to sweep around an opponent in open country.

Tank and armored reconnaissance units can be almost fluid in their movement, flowing around terrain low and slow or rushing low and fast until the right moment.

Anywho, perhaps DARPA is intending to automate some of these actions much the way that stealth technology automates some functions of an aircraft's avoidance detection. If they are, I'm not seeing how. Or at least any realistic how.

Also, it's worth noting that the trend for armored vehicles in urban combat has been towards heavier, rather than lighter. Mainly because as the Russians, Israelis, and US have rediscovered, avoiding everything from detection to taking hits is much, much harder for vehicles in constricted urban environments. Hence the Russian and Israeli armies' adaptation of tank chassis for use as survivable infantry APCs, and the uparmoring of US vehicles in Iraq this last decade.

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