Thursday, April 19, 2007

Canadian Tanks & ASW

On the ground side of the war, we see another example where the cold, hard, time-proven facts of warfare have destroyed the pet theories of those who overestimate their insight into the future of war.

You see, up until they were involved in Afghanistan, the Canadian Army was going to get rid to their tanks and move towards a Stryker/LAV like "all wheeled force" as a evolutionary tank just wasn't "sexy" and "transformational" as the new toys.

Something happened after the PowerPoint.

It would seem that the Canadian Forces are taking some of the lessons re-learned during Operation Medusa in Afghanistan to heart. Canada's DND:

"The heavily protected direct fire capability of a main battle tank is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of any military. The intensity of recent conflicts in Central Asia and the Middle East has shown western militaries that tanks provide protection that cannot be matched by more lightly armoured wheeled vehicles.... [Canada's existing Leopard C2/1A5] tanks have also provided the Canadian Forces (CF) with the capability to travel to locations that would otherwise be inaccessible to wheeled light armoured vehicles, including Taliban defensive positions."

In October 2003, Canada was set to buy the Styker/LAV-III 105mm Mobile Gun System to replace its Leopard C2 tanks. In the end, however, the lessons of war have taken Canada down a very different path - one that now has them renewing the very tank fleet they were once intent on scrapping, and backing away from the wheeled vehicles that were once the cornerstone of the Canadian Army's transformation plan. And so it goes...

As noted above, existing Leopard 1A5-CAN tanks (designated C2) have been a welcome addition to the fighting in Afghanistan, and their MEXAS ceramic-composite armor kits and combat engineering attachments increase their versatility. Canada's LAV-III wheeled armored personnel carriers have played useful roles, using their sensor suites and 25mm autocannon in road overwatch and patrols. The Panjwaii district's mud-brick compounds and its irrigation ditches, however, presented the LAV-IIIs with limits they could not easily overcome - and would have done the same for the LAV-III/Stryker MGS systems, had Canada gone ahead with that purchase.

Canadian sources tell DID that in addition to direct fire support from the Leopard C2s' 105mm gun, the tanks' heft and traction are equally significant because they can crumble low-lying brick walls by using front-mounted engineering attachments like dozer blades - or just their own weight. This clears a path for other forces, and allows the tanks to continue moving forward and providing fire support.
Read the whole story, and then come back.

Here is what this has to do with ASW. Both US and Allied ground forces are having to rethink all their plans, as good learning institutions do, as a result of the very real facts they are re-learning on the ground in actual combat. We in the Navy are not.

There are "known unknowns" out there that will bite us in the tail the next time our Fleet has to engage in actual combat at sea. There will be a next time.

These surprises will come, we know that. What is important is that you don't get surprised by those things you know to be true. It would be as if you walked out in the morning and said, "Holy Cr@p! The sky is blue!"

We have not had a ASW challenge since WWII, but some have. The Indians, Pakistanis, Argentinians, and British all have in the last three decades. What their experiences tell us is that you need numbers. Lots of ships that can dedicate themselves to ASW. These are the same lessons from WWI and WWII.

Don't talk to me about gee wizz "war winning" technology breakthroughs that will make ASW a walk in the park. Those things will help, but the fundamentals to close to direct path contact, POSSUB HIGH, and put a hole in the hull remain. Those things require numbers in both training, platforms, and weapons. Proven weapons, and a diversity of weapons that will assist in avoiding the shock of an effective countermeasure, or a single point of failure of a poorly performing weapon.

Out training is suspect, our numbers above, on and under the sea are shrinking. The MK48 is a fine weapon, but we don't have enough SSN to cover everyone or to dedicate to nothing but ASW. That leaves the LWT and those who rely on it. Those who know, know. We don't have depth charges. No depth bombs. No hedgehogs. For ships and aircraft - it is the Light Weight Torpedo or nothing. The we have reached the point that from a surface perspective we almost don't have and ASW ability. Our helos are doing about everything but ASW. Our P-3s are few, broken and doing a lot of ISR. S-3 are gone. Just like you can save me the " don't understand the ASW CONOPS as described in....." or "...there is limited to no use for anything but a torpedo against a submarine; your PK is..." I know all that, but I also know ASW and I know what submarines have and will do. I also know that such bravado was spoken prior to Operation DRUMBEAT.

Physics, Facts, and Fundamentals. The need and use of the tank today would be fully understood by Guderian, von Manstein, or Patton. The future requirements for ASW likewise are known - yet because they are expensive and hard we allow ourselves to let them go without much thought. Sad really. I am afraid that we won't get the chance for a reality check until a CVN or T-AKE or LPD goes down.

No green flares in the real world.

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