Introduction and Purpose of NATO Armour Day
1. Good Morning, my name is ________ and I am a Queen's Royal Hussar, which is one of the 8 x Armoured Regiments of the British Army currently (8 May 1997) equipped with Challenger 1. Although soon to be replaced, Challenger 1 has seen service in the Gulf War of 1991 and in B-H with the NATO IFOR and SFOR deployments. Challenger 1 will be the tank used today in all examples and demonstrations.
2. NATO Armour Day
The NATO Armour Day is aimed at giving students an introduction to and a basic understanding of the uses and limitations of armour in the Fighting in Built Up (FIBUA) environment. The day begins with this presentation and will be followed by a number of demonstrations and lessons along with an opportunity to get a practical, hands on look at the use of tanks in this particular, specialised environment. The day has not been geared to any particular level of command. Instead of discussing specifics relevant to a Battle Group or Company Group operations, it is designed to highlight those points of consideration to a commander at any level should plan on prior to his inclusion of armour.
3. Armour Presentation The following presentation will begin the Armour package by considering the limitations of armour in the urban environment and its utilisation and employment - or what it can offer! Before looking at these, it is worth giving recognition to two common misconceptions. The first is held by tankers, who like open spaces and often feel that tanks in built up areas are as out of place as fish are in deserts. The second misconception is held by the rest of the army - particularly the infantry - and this is that tanks in a built up area are just "in the way" and - besides - they will not survive long enough to be worth the effort of looking after them. The aim of this presentation is to explain why both misconceptions are incorrect and why armour has a definite role in FIBUA operations.
Limitations on the use of Armour in Built Up Areas
1. General: The limitations of armour in the urban environment will be reviewed by taking each of its characteristics in turn and explaining how they are effected. The characteristics of armour as identified by the British Army are as follows:
b. Protection and Survivability.
d. Flexibility - as a function of mobility, firepower and communications.
Looking at each in turn:
2. Firepower - The Challenger Main Battle Tank (MBT) has considerable
firepower to bring to bear in the FIBUA environment. This tank is equipped
with a 120 mm rifled main armament that fires wither an APFSDS anti-armour
kinetic energy round or a High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) chemical energy
round. The HESH round is particularly suitable for creating holes in walls
and thus enables the infantry access to objective buildings. Other HESH
attributes include is its ability to destroy obstacles or barricades and
neutralizing enemy defensive fire. The tank has two 7.62 General Purpose
Machine Guns (GPMGs) - one fitted coaxially to the main armament and the other
independently as the commander's MG. Finally, the tank has the capability to
produce smoke from either the main armament or from its multi-barreled smoke
grenade dischargers. Although each tank has this considerable firepower, its
ability to bring it to bear can be heavily restricted in the urban
environment. These restrictions are as follows:
a. Observation - Initially a tank's ability to engage targets will be restricted by its ability to observe and identify them. The following problems should be particularly considered:
(1) The Sniper Threat - The higher this threat within an urban area the more it will necessitate tank crews to operate in the closed down position. This, in turn, limits the crew's observation ability as they will have to depend on the tank's sights and episcopes. This restriction will seriously degrade firepower potential. This will be demonstrated later during one of your practical application periods.
(2) Obscuration/Incendiarism - The limited ability of tank crews to observe when closed down will be further restricted by the high levels of obscuration and smoke present in the urban combat environment. Depending how dense, smoke can be capable of obscuring the tank's TOGS TI sight. Again, you will be familiarized with the tank's TOGS TI sight during today's practical application period.
b. Firepower - Looking now at the tanks ability to bring its fire to bear, it
is further affected by the following:
(1) Limited Fields of Fire - Unlike the rural environment, fields of fire in towns and cities tend to be severely restricted. With the possible exception of parks and wide open boulevard type streets, the norm is for narrow arcs, short ranges and considerable dead ground. These limited fields of fire will necessitate extremely careful siting.
(2) Minimum Ranges and Snap Shooting - Largely as a consequence of the
restricted fields of fire, the type of engagements carried out by tanks will
be short range, snap shots, often at fleeting targets. Points to be aware of
are that although the APFSDS has no minimum range, the HESH round only arms
after 50 meters. Additionally, the need to fire at short range fleeting
targets may well require the tank crew to fire on reversionary modes and
override the tanks computer fire control system.
(3) Traverse Restrictions - The tanks firepower may be restricted in the urban environment by its inability to traverse due to obstructions such as telegraph poles, buildings, sign posts, lamp posts and other urban clutter. In some cases - particularly in the defence - it may be possible to clear fields of fire from prepared fire positions. However, a tank may have to deploy out of cover in order to traverse properly.
(4) Elevation - A tanks relative inability to elevate its main armament will considerably reduce its ability to bring its fire power to bear and consequently reduce its ability to defend itself. Challenger can elevate its gun to approximately 20 degrees and can depress 10 degrees. In the three dimensional environment of FIBUA, it is easily possible that a tank may find itself too close to an elevated target that it can engage. Likewise, the "deadspace" resulting from the tanks inability to depress sufficiently - particularly over the back decks - makes it potentially a very vulnerable target. Both of these problems - traverse and elevation - will be demonstrated later during the practical application period.
(5) Sabot/Muzzle Overpressure - At this stage it is worth bearing in mind several of the side effects of a tank firing its main armament in an urban environment. Of particular concern is the Challenger's APFSDS round. Dismounted infantry forward of the main armament will suffer considerably from the blast overpressure, and in the case of the APFDS round - the Sabot petals falling away from the round. With a muzzle velocity of over 1200 meters per second - they will kill!
3. Protection and Survivability - We will now examine the second characteristic of armour - protection - or more importantly, its survivability. In FIBUA; armour is faced by the same threats as in other combat environments, but some elements need to be particularly considered. Some examples are as follows:
a. Armour - The greatest levels of protection of a tank's armour are provided
in its frontal arc. A tank is particularly vulnerable to top and bottom
attack as well as shots aimed at the rear or side. The three dimensional
nature of FIBUA operations facilitates the ease to bring weapons to bear on
tanks from upper floors of buildings or from cellars and sewers! This problem
is further affected by the short range engagements of FIBUA operations. As a
consequence, the threat posed by infantry hand-held anti-tank weapons will
increase as the enemy avoids the inherent inaccuracy of their anti-tank
weapons at longer ranges and the war-head defeating frontal armour of tanks.
This increased vulnerability, combined with a tanks restricted ability to
defend itself, must be understood and planned for. The answer may well be the
deployment of dismounted infantry to act as a tank's "bodyguard" or for armour
to be confined to operating within the small arms umbrella of those troops
b. Cover - In FIBUA, the nature of cover available will affect the employment of armour. The high levels of debris will give good cover from view and fire to defenders, while the attacker will lack the folds in the ground that would normally offer hull down positions. A further effect of the nature of cover in an urban environment is the problem of a tank having to move or fire around a corner. In doing so, it will invariably have to expose itself considerably before it can realign its frontal armour to the threat or bring its sights and weapons to bear.
c. Hides/Concealment/Camouflage - A major element of survivability in any combat operation is that of concealment. This will often mean keeping tanks behind the FEBA in concealed hide locations ready to deploy forward when required. Further, this will mean concealment by the use of prepared fire positions and good camouflage. All of these aspects are equally valid in FIBUA. Where possible, hides should be used by armour in the defence prior to their committal. Careful consideration and planning must be made on both the construction of any buildings used and the routes forward to battle positions as the devastation of indirect fire and battle may block or delay the employment of tanks at the critical moment in the current battle. Camouflage must be considered as the rural pattern will not assist amongst buildings. An urban pattern was developed by British tankers in Berlin, but its use takes time and resources to convert to and they may not be often available.
4. Mobility - Looking now at the third characteristic of armour - that of mobility, it is necessary to consider how this will be affected in an urban environment. A feature of urban areas is the general restriction of movement, in that - tanks can only move along roads, streets and avenues. Additionally, many urban areas may be dominated by walls, garages and other inherent urban obstacles. Another mobility problem is one that stems from the tank's size and weight - as they may not physically be able to cross bridges, drive over sewer systems, or be able to manoeuvre along narrow streets. An effect of this restriction to freedom of movement is that it will be easy to either block routes and prevent deployment or to canalise movement increasing the vulnerability of armour. This can be done deliberately by the deployment of fire or obstacles or may be an unintentional result of the devastation resulting from indirect fire.
5. Flexibility - The final characteristic of armour is flexibility. This is a function of communications, mobility and firepower and refers to the ability of armour to react swiftly, using its high mobility to manoeuvre and bring its considerable firepower to bear in order to influence a critical aspect of the battle. As a function of mobility and firepower, the impact of the FIBUA environment on flexibility should be clear. If the tank's mobility is restricted and its ability to bring firepower to bear is limited - then its flexibility may be considerably degraded. This will be further exacerbated by the difficulties likely to be encountered by using VHF communications in a built up area.
Employment of Armour in Offensive and Defensive Operations
5. Having identified the limitations of armour operating in built up areas and the particular vulnerabilities faced, it is time to examine why commanders should bother……. It certainly isn’t all doom and gloom and the correct employment of armour in the all arms FIBUA battle can offer significant dividends. In identifying these we shall first look at offensive and then defensive operations considering each of the phases or elements in turn and highlighting where armour can be effectively employed.
6. Offensive Operations – As you are aware, offensive operations in built up areas are broken down into five different phases.
a. Investment – The investment aims to sanitise or isolate the built up area from support or reinforcements and either to encourage or prevent withdraw of the enemy. Since the assaulting force has not yet gained a foot hold in the built up area, tactics and the choice of forces for this phase are conventional. The tank is ideally suited for this stand off and shoot or observe task which utilises its protection, flexibility and firepower to react to enemy activity. Although capable of much longer range requirements, the planning range for the tank’s main armament is 2000 meters at which it retains its extremely high rate of first round hits.
b. Break-in – The break-in phase attempts to secure an initial foot on the ground to support subsequent offensive phases. The break-in will normally be a deliberate attack of whatever sized force, depending on the nature of the enemy and the characteristics of the build up area. As with a conventional attack, armour can be readily employed giving direct fire support to the assaulting troops, by leading the assault and subsequently by providing intimate fire support at the lowest level to the infantry on the ground. It should be noted that assaulting tanks that attempt to move around the edge rather than enter the built up area will be extremely vulnerable as they become out flanked and expose their sides to enemy fire. Also, tanks operating in urban areas must remain under the infantry support umbrella. This marriage of convenience will only survive if the infantry support the armour and the armour support the infantry.
c. Securing of Objectives – The support armour can provide in the securing of objectives is considerable. In these low level, often splintered and independent little battles, tanks can offer the following:
(1) Access to Buildings – Tanks can be used effectively to provide the infantry with instant access to buildings. The HESH round will generally provide an accurate and sufficiently large hole in walls with considerable harm to anyone occupying an interior room. The ability of an infantry section to call a tank forward, to indicate the target and support the tank while it is conducting its task is solely dependent on the drills and cooperation developed between the two.
(2) Destruction of Obstacles and Barricades – In the same way as the infantry can utilise the accuracy and firepower of the tank to gain access to buildings, it can be utilised to clear a number of obstacles and barricades. Attempts to canalise assaulting forces by blocking roads using cars/buses can be eliminated wither by fire or by driving through. It should be noted that obstacles will usually be covered by fire and may well be mined.
(3) Destruction of Enemy Strong Points – Armour support may be invaluable to infantry attempting to destroy or secure enemy strong points. The ability of tanks to stand off and engage static targets with high degrees of accuracy and considerable weight of fire should not be underestimated.
(4) Intimate Support to Infantry - Armour has a role in the FIBUA battle as intimate support to infantry. This involves tanks grouped with the infantry possibly down to platoon level, often working as a pair of tanks. Support will consist of high levels of suppressive fire neutralising the enemy. Additional benefits such as increasing the morale of the infantry and maintaining the momentum of the assault will also arise. Consideration must be made as to command relationships and also the communications detail – which net will the tanks and infantry work on.
(5) Anti-armour – The last point to bring out at this stage is the value of armour in defeating other armour. Potentially the most effective way for assaulting infantry to deal with an enemy tank in the defence is by calling forward armour to destroy it. Again, their ability to do so will rely heavily on the drills such as infantry/tank target indication.
d. Clearance – Armoured support to the clearance phase of the battle is similar to that of the previous phase.
e. Reorganisation – In the reorganisation phase, armour once again takes up the lead. The critical factor in reorganisation is the security of the objective, thus allowing the reorganisation to take place. This security can be provided by armour deployed forward creating a “Ring of Steel” around the built up area. This again relies on the protection, firepower and mobility available.
7. Defensive Operations – The key to defensive operations at all levels is a mobile and aggressive defence. Bearing in this in mind, we will look at the four elements of a FIBUA defence.
a. Perimeter posts – The perimeter posts are tasked to provide warning and prevent surprise, destroy enemy recce, deceive the enemy on dispositions and strengths and force the enemy to deploy off the line of march to launch a deliberate attack. Armour is well suited to provide warning from overwatch/OP positions using its optical and TOGS SI sight. Once identified, it can engage the enemy out beyond 2000 meters causing early attrition and thereby forcing the enemy to deploy prematurely. In addition, tanks can be used as an effective part of the deception plan creating significant levels of dust, smoke and noise from movement.
b. Disruption Force – The disruption force is tasked with the delay of the enemy, causing confusion, continuing the attrition and channeling the enemy into prepared killing areas and defended localities. Again, tanks can be effectively used in sniping shoots and through their flexibility to react rapidly to the developing enemy assault.
c. Strong Points/Defended Localities – The use of armour in support of the strong points and defended localities will generally be in the anti armour role, as intimate support to defending troops and in support of counter attacks. Defended localities will also have their own integral reserve and tanks may well be employed in support of these.
d. Central Reserve – Where ever possible, armour should be included in the central reserve. All the characteristics of armour lend them readily to the task of reserve, acting as a fire brigade putting out fires where they spring up. The ability of armour to deploy forward rapidly to reinforce, counter attack or seal off enemy penetration may well allow the defending force to recapture the initiative. Planning points must include the careful selection of hides, clear routes and possibly preplanned fire positions.
The MOUT Homepage Hot Links:
|HOME||CONCEPTS||DOCTRINE||OPERATIONS 1||OPERATIONS 2|