Recently the new Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Berger has decided to get rid of tanks. This is in preparation to fight China and new threats.
A series of wargames were conducted, where the one of the wargame’s conclusions was that tanks are too vulnerable. No data was supplied on this hypothesis so it’s hard to verify. General Berger is basically saying that drones and anti-tank missiles have made the tanks obsolete (for the Marine Corps), but if we need them we can still get them from the Army.
Tanks have been obsolete since WWII. The Air Force said they were obsolete when nuclear weapons and strategic bombing showed we no longer needed ground forces. The Yom Kippur war showed us that tanks were obsolete because of anti-tank missiles. I myself was a tank company XO in 2nd Tank Battalion twenty years ago when we had a joint exercise, and primitive drones were spotting for artillery and our tanks were “killed” by artillery rounds dropping on us, and we were magically obsolete. Just a couple of things were wrong here:
The kills were bogus, the exercise referees made judgement calls that said the tanks were killed by artillery. Realistically, M1A1s are almost impossible to kill with artillery. As of this date, it would be an extremely rare event for an M1A1 tank to be taken out by an artillery round. None that I know of: nine were taken out with RPGs during the second gulf war but no mention of artillery. Yet these infantry referees were running around the battlefield like maniacs screaming that the artillery rounds were taking out my tanks.
Most likely the wargames mentioned in the document were using weapons and results more commonly found in science fiction books, similar to plot armor, and the conclusions were pre-drafted. A lot of the Marine Corps, particularly the infantry, doesn’t like tanks. They’re heavy, they’re expensive, and they’re a logistical nightmare. Tanks are like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. They’re a huge pain in the ass, and you almost never need them. Until you need them, really, really badly.
So, is it a mistake to get rid of them? Am I just being a whiny tanker, and not paying attention to the analysis, and changes in tech? Maybe. The Marine Corps is a small organization, and we can’t afford all the bells and whistles that the other services spend money on, we have to do cost-benefit analysis on every system that we invest in. Cuts and changes need to be implemented. But, I think we need to know a little more about this wargame where the tanks weren’t an asset. I don’t think we should press the I-believe button until we see the numbers and conditions. Until then, the new Commandant should go back to deciding what t-shirt everyone’s going to wear.