Armor: October 10, 2001

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More Lessons From The Second Chechen War- Tactical and other lessons from Russia's war in Chechnya continue to appear. The best of these are seen in Armor Magazine, the source for this and previous articles.

@ Russian units found that the best way to fight into a heavily defended area was to give a single command post control over all artillery, rocket, missile, and aviation support assets. This Reconnaissance Fire Operation worked by having the maneuver units (tanks and infantry) locate the enemy unit and isolate it. The artillery commander then destroyed the enemy unit. Tanks and infantry were kept out of range of enemy small arms in order to minimize casualties.

@ Only a third of modern Russian tanks were ever fitted with through-the-cannon missile capability, and the Russian Army has been unable to keep many of these systems in operation.

@ Every day in the Chechen War zone counted as two days against the soldier's enlistment. This at least gave soldiers the feeling that there was some benefit to being in combat.

@ The Chechens found that the best way to kill a tank was to bury a 155mm shell or similar explosive in an area where tanks were likely to move and then detonate it by remote control.

@ The carousel autoloaders are more recent Russian tanks can be emptied in one tenth of the time it takes to reload them. Infantry units assigned a few tanks would have them move into a supporting fire position one at a time, each tank firing as rapidly as it needed to until its carousel was empty. Then the tank would be replaced. This would continue until all of the tanks had emptied their carousels, at which point the infantry would dig in and wait until the tank unit had completed its reloading cycle in the rear. 

@ The MVD (security and police) units took more casualties. This was because they lacked artillery support. The Chechens learned that to shoot a soldier was to invite artillery fire, but to shoot a policeman was simply a convenient way to kill Russians without penalty.

@ Russian "thermobaric" weapons (designed to destroy bunkers and buildings) proved to be very good anti-tank weapons. These are sometimes listed as "flamethrowers" in Western literature, but are in fact shoulder-held rocket launchers with a fuel-air explosive warhead. When the rocket reaches its target, it spreads a cloud of explosive gas and then detonates it. The fuel is designed to burn relatively slowly, causing a long "dwell time". This increases the chance of starting fires, and the longer period of explosive overpressure actually causes more damage to human beings than a much higher but shorter overpressure. But the fuel which was designed to seep through the cracks and gun ports of bunkers proved remarkably effective against tanks, as it could seep through the air filters designed to protect the crew compartment from nuclear, biological, or chemical attacks, and easily infiltrated the engine compartment. The fire then follows the fuel, setting fire to the engine and blasting flame into the crew compartment.--Stephen V Cole

 


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