Part 2 Battle Cruisers, Tank Destroyers, and Armored
This section examines the
evolution of the IBCT through some of its historical precedents: battle cruiser, tank destroyers, World War
II Cavalry Groups of World War II, and the 2nd Armored Cavalry
Regiment (Light). While there is no
direct relationship between these organizations and the medium brigade, they
all share features and it is instructive to look at the IBCT through historical
seemingly disparate groups all have one thing in common: they were designed to fulfill a scouting or
defense function and to allow the concentration of other forces for the main
Battle Cruisers and Battle Ships
Admiral John "Jackie"
Fischer invented both battle cruisers and the dreadnought or modern battleship
giving the British Navy a significant advantage at the beginning of the
twentieth century. The dreadnaught was
a radical departure from earlier battleships because it concentrated on having
a large single caliber main gun battery as opposed to several guns of mixed
The battle cruiser was
designed to function independently, carried battleship armament and was faster
then the battleship through increased power plants and lighter armor. Its job was to out gun, out run, and absorb
hits from smaller vessels such as heavy cruisers, while evading other capital
USS Alaska Battle Cruiser
Tragically, the idea, which
looked good on paper, did not fare so well in the real world.
Germany quickly built its own battle
cruisers with more armor and less speed and firepower, negating the British
As a counter, the British
formed their ships into squadrons and in this role; they functioned as scouts
for the battle fleet. Once the enemy
fleet was located, they would engage enemy battle cruisers in a fleet action or
use their speed to engage the enemy battleships in conjunction with the
friendly battle line.
This philosophy proved to be
tragically flawed as shown at the Battle of Jutland
where no less than three out of the five British battle cruisers
were sunk with catastrophic explosions and the loss all but a handful of
crewman while a fourth was severely damaged.
Almost as Admiral Hood, commanding the Invincible, was killed,
the HMS Hood was nearing the end of its construction.
The Hood of course,
suffered from the same weaknesses of all battle cruisers, and was sunk by the
Prinz Eugen or Bismark in the early days of World War II.
US Tank Destroyers in World War II
Tank Destroyers (TD) are
rooted to the initial use of field artillery as anti-tank guns in World War
I. The US developed TDs as a defensive
measure in a very offensively minded army, perhaps dooming it to failure from
the start against the rampage of the German panzers in the opening stages of
World War II.
Colonel (later General)
Andrew D. Bruce (who also commanded the very successful 77th
Infantry Division in the Pacific) founded the US tank destroyer force.
Initially, tank destroyers were to be
employed in anti-tank platoons in infantry battalions, companies in infantry
regiments, and independent battalions at the divisional level.
Although initially successful in wargames
in the US, their combat performance never quite lived up to the "live
simulations" of the pre war years.
Tank Destroyer Battalion
The US planned to employ TDs
offensively, for this reason, like battle cruisers, they had big guns to kill
enemy tanks and were fast with only light, open topped armor to allow them to
The 1943 Self-propelled Tank
Destroyer battalion was organized as shown in Figure 3.
It was armed with the M10 (Sherman based
with a 3 inch gun in an open turret), the M18 (a smaller, purpose built TD,
with a high velocity 76mm gun), or the M36 (another Sherman variant with a 90mm
gun essentially identical to the M26 Pershings).
The units were not to "slug it out with enemy tanks,"
instead, their cavalry units would find the enemy and guide the TDs onto the
enemy flanks, while their security detachments protected them from enemy
Tank destroyer were supposed
to be employed in groups and even brigades to mass and defeat large groups of
enemy armor, but by the time the US entered ground combat in World War II, the
Germans seldom presented such large groups of tanks.
Instead, they were usually attached out to divisions in small
units. In the one or two instances when
large groups of enemy tanks presented themselves, the TDs were unable to
concentrate due to the poor communications of the period and the time it took
They were useful as indirect
fire artillery, direct fire artillery (knocking out bunkers or AT positions in
support of infantry and armor attacks), and as reinforcements to tank platoons,
able to deal with the heavily armored Panther and Tiger tanks.
Mechanized Cavalry In World War II
Mechanized cavalry evolved
from the Armys horse cavalry regiments between the two world wars and during
the early years of World War II.
Intended as a reconnaissance and security organization, it initially
relied on stealth for its success.
However, early failures in North Africa showed that cavalry doctrine and
organization, with few weapons and dismounts, was flawed at the start.
After its initial use in
combat, mechanized cavalry evolved into a combat arm as opposed to a purely
reconnaissance arm. Results were
successful, but costly, because cavalry units were not equipped with the heavy
armor of tank units and had far fewer scouts for dismounted work than an
armored infantry battalion.
Unlike tank destroyers
units, cavalry groups actually commanded their squadrons, instead of having
them routinely detached out to other units.
The cavalry group, however, was comparatively weak, only consisting of
two squadrons. It therefore had to put
all its combat power in the line or only retain a small reserve.
Also unlike tank destroyers, there were
divisional cavalry squadrons. As such,
the role and employment of cavalry has remained fairly steady up to the present
The 1943 cavalry squadron
was organized much like todays cavalry squadrons, with a headquarters troop,
three cavalry troops, a tank company, and a howitzer battery.
The cavalry troops had three reconnaissance
platoons, as shown in Figure 4. This
organization was stealthy enough to gain information without fighting and heavy
enough to fight to gain information.
Mechanized Cavalry Squadron
Key to the tactical success
of the cavalry squadron was the Jeep, small, quiet, and nimble, it could get
the cavalrymen out of trouble as quickly as it got him into it.
Together with the dedicated 60mm mortars and
high proportion of automatic weapons, and backed up with the M-8 Armored Car (a
tank destroyer cast off), supported by the tank company and the assault gun
battery, the squadron could also defend and attack, as well as carry out
traditional cavalry missions.
USMC Light Armored Reconnaissance
The LAR Battalion (Figure 5)
arose with the USMCs realization that they were too light for
contingencies in places like the Middle East, where nearly every country had
large numbers of armored vehicles.
Marine Corps LAR
it was conceived of as a reconnaissance organization, the battalion was
initially named the light armored infantry battalion.
It has a similar organization to the Armys proposed medium
infantry battalions, consisting of 4 companies, each with three platoons of
LAV-25, 4 LAV-Anti-tank TOW vehicles (wheeled versions of the M901 ITV), and 2
LAV-Mortar (81mm Mortars), plus assorted support vehicles.
The battalion suffers from a lack of Anti-tank
fires (no Javelin or Dragons) and only has four dismounts
It therefore requires augmentation from infantry, tank, and
Assault Amphibian battalions for many missions.
This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it operates as part
of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), and as such, has an lethal air
component to call upon for support.
The LAR battalions main
roles are reconnaissance and security.
Because the LAV is not armored to protect against anything larger than
7.62mm machine gun fire or 152mm artillery bursts at ranges of greater than 50
feet, it relies on its speed and stealth to avoid decisive engagement,
just like battle cruisers, tank destroyers, and cavalry groups.
The LAR is at a severe
disadvantage in offensive or defensive operations where the enemy has mobility
equal to or greater than its own.
Again, these faults are compensated for by the awesome combined arms
power of the MAGTF.
LAR battalions performed
well in the Gulf War, although one battalion suffered severely due to friendly
fire. It has also performed well in
large scale exercises in the southwestern United States.
The Light Armored Cavalry Regiment
The 2nd Armored
Cavalry Regiment is the armys "light" cavalry regiment and is descended from
the 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) and the 199th
Separate Infantry Brigade (Motorized) themselves orphans of the high
technology test bed division.
Its squadrons are organized
much as a standard ACR (Figure 6), except armed with HMMWVs equipped with
machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, and TOW missiles instead of fighting
vehicles and main battle tanks. It has
a large amount of anti-tank weapons in the form of its TOWs and Javelins, but
has virtually no armor protection. The HMMWVs were intended to be surrogate
vehicles for more advanced vehicles to be developed, notably the M8 Armored Gun
System, but these were all cancelled, and the result is an organization with
high strategic mobility, poor armor protection, that is more dependent on
stealth than its heavier brother.
The 2nd ACR could
be characterized as a combination and evolution of World War II Tank Destroyer
units (with its heavy hitting TOWs instead of tank destroyers) and the
mechanized cavalry groups (with their HMMWVs instead of jeeps.)
The 2nd ACR has
not been tested in combat, but has faired well in peacekeeping operations;
however, it has not proved as successful as its heavy counterparts at the
National Training Center. It is more
fit for low intensity warfare and peacekeeping than high or medium intensity
Historical Lessons Learned
stealth, and firepower are no substitute for protection
it looks like a tank (battleship), it will get used like a tank (battleship).
scouts or infantry are necessary for successful combat / reconnaissance
there is flawed doctrine, the troops will invent their own ways of employing a
- Surrogate vehicles tend to become permanent.
Part 3 The Medium Battalion