Armor: March 19, 2001


The US Army's Armor Branch is giving a frosty welcome to the idea of giving up M1 tanks for LAV armored cars. According to spokesmen from the infantry branch, the armor should use these lighter vehicles so that they can be quickly transported to a theater of war and provide armored support for the infantry. The Armor Branch, however, points out serious problems with this theory. Simply put, LAVs cannot survive in combat against tanks and major armor-killing systems. If it is a choice between an LAV that arrived on time and a tank that did not arrive on time, the Armor Branch points out that it would be better not to be there at all. If the first tanks to arrive in the Gulf War had instead been LAVs, they could not have stopped attacks by Iraqi T-55s and T-62s. As such, the problem is not getting light vehicles to the battle, but to figure out a way to get heavy tanks to the battle faster. That might mean more cargo planes, new dirigibles, or high-speed ships. The tankers point out the painful lessons of WWII. The Army lost 900 Sherman tanks between 6 June and 14 August 1944. (Shermans had about the same armor as the LAV, and faced less of a threat than the US would face in many theaters today.) While the loss of 900 vehicles and a few thousand crewmen were bad enough in World War II, such losses would be unsustainable today.--Stephen V Cole


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