Monday, July 27, 2009

Musings on a subject about which I know nothing

"The T-34-85 in early 1944 gave the Red Army a tank with better armour and mobility than German Pzkw IV and Sturmgeschütz III, but it could not match the Panther in gun or armour protection. To the Soviet advantage there were far fewer Panthers than T-34s, and the T-34-85 was good enough to allow skilled crew and tactical situations to tip the balance."
[Wikipedia entry, T-34; emphasis added]

"At long range, the Sherman was badly outmatched by the Panther's 75 mm gun, which could easily penetrate the Sherman's armor. This contributed to the high losses of Sherman tanks experienced by the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO)."
[Wikpedia entry, M4 Sherman]

German Panther & Tiger tanks were technically superior to either the Soviet T-34s or America's M4 Sherman: better armored, better armed.
The Allies - with their inferior tanks - won the war.

Both Shermans & T-34s were designed for manufacturability, and both were produced in huge numbers.
The German super-tanks, by contrast, were not easy to produce, and were simply numerically overwhelmed on the battlefields of Western & Eastern Europe.
... In addition, both Soviet and Western tank commanders and crews developed tactics to maximize the effectiveness of their tanks against the superior German machines.

Moving on.
I just watched a Military Channel program, "Planes of the Red Star" focusing on the MiG-21.
Paraphrased/remembered (hence, likely not accurate) commentary from the program:
Originally designed for daytime air-to-air combat, the airframe proved so reliable that it was soon adapted to ground support, light bombing, and night-fighting missions.
Soviet military doctrine required that the MiG-21 be reliable, easy to produce, and require little maintenance...
... the engines were not designed for long life, and were simply swapped out on a routine basis, the old engines being sent to the rear for refurbishing and rebuilding.
Wikipedia [Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21] reveals that:
"The fighter has the distinction of holding a number of modern aviation records; it is the most produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history, the most produced combat aircraft since the Korean War, and it had the longest production run of a combat aircraft (1959 to 1985 over all variants)."
So... why am I going off on this tangent???

I suggest that the Pentagon's focus on the latest/greatest high-tech weapons systems is foolhardy.
Producing reliable, highly-manufacturable, versatile machines - on the cheap - is a better doctrine.
The Third Reich had the best tanks of WWII.
- Germany lost tank battles to inferior, but plentiful, T-34s and Shermans.
We had the fanciest jet fighters in Vietnam.
- the MiG-21 was a formidable opponent.
Germany lost WWII.
We were chased from Vietnam.

My bet is that there are Military Specifications requiring field equipment to withstand radiation from a multi-megaton atomic blast within 10 miles.
My question: who's going to be operating that equipment after the blast?

Quite a few years ago I read somewhere - no, I don't recall where, or even the context - that 'insurgents' were winning against state-sponsored armies using RPGs & 50-cal machine guns mounted on the backs on light pickup trucks - overwhelming the enemy with numbers.

A recent New Yorker article (again, sorry - I don't recall the title or the date... within past few months) - noted that in publicly sponsored war-games, a Stanford researcher won hands down by deploying LOTS of small vessels - overwhelming the more traditional fleets deployed by the rest of the players.
He was accused of 'gaming' the rules... BUT THAT WAS THE OBJECT!!!
... and after a couple of years of dominance, he voluntarily withdrew from competition.

Why can't we learn from these examples???
Why are war-games rigged to support traditional thinking???

"Best" isn't needed.
"Good enough" will do... and "good enough" is a LOT cheaper!!!

aside: my vote for best bang-for-buck weapons system in U.S. arsenal: the venerable B-52 bomber, vintage 1955... sub-sonic, non-stealth.
It's still flying in active combat.

p.s. okay - my memory is improving... slightly. A focus of the New Yorker article was the coach of a girls' middle-school basketball team who'd been roped into the job somehow. Realizing that his daughter - on the team - and her team-mates weren't exceptional athletes, he coached the team to use a full-court press ALL THE TIME. Challenge the inbounds. Swarm the ball. Don't let the other team get past half-court. It worked. His team of none-too-talented girls made it to the national championships. He was accused of cheating... somehow using a full-court press ALL THE TIME was considered impolite.

Again: why can't our military-doctrine folks learn from these examples? [It's not like they're winning our current wars!]

p.p.s. Returning to one of my favorite subjects.
Even granting that our anti-ballistic-missile system can work (which I don't believe, but I'm willing to grant the premise): so what? Does it protect us?
Crude cruise missiles (think "V-1 flying bomb") with nukes launched from freighters off our coasts can defeat the system, destroying LA, San Francisco, Portland OR, Seattle, Boston, NYC, Washington DC, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Houston... heck, with the St. Lawrence Seaway, even Chicago is vulnerable to a "V1 on freighter" attack!
The Maginot Line worked like a charm. The Germans did not penetrate it.

p.p.p.s. I found the New Yorker article!
How David Beats Goliath

p.p.p.p.s. One more note on Soviet MiG fighters.
"In 1976 Viktor BelenkoViktor Belenko, a Soviet MiG-25 pilot, defected to Japan. Subsequent analysis revealed a simple-yet-functional design with vacuum-tube electronics, two massive turbojet engines, and sparing use of advanced materials such as titanium."
[Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25; emphasis added]
Vacuum tube electronics... in 1976!!!
Please note the description: "simple-yet-functional design".
Recall: the Soviet Union did NOT lose to the West militarily!

1 comment:

  1. The military-industrial complex isn't interested in winning wars, only fighting them and making huge profits.