Friday, September 28, 2007

Modern weapons and tactics

Innovation in weapons and how they are used have caused massive inequalities throughout history. A classic example is the Panzer Division and how its use impacted modern warfare. The Panzer Division was a group of 200 to 300 tanks within a 2 or 3 square mile area that operated as a unit. Starting in 1939 and throughout 1941, this tool was decisive in winning battles. By 1942, all other major powers had adopted this idea and the effect was reduced substantially.

The concept of an advantage because of innovation applies to weapons as well. An excellent example is the match-up of the U.S. Sherman tank against the German Tiger tanks, 1943-1945. Many Sherman tanks were up-gunned in 1944 with the 90-mm, which helped. However, the Sherman was still far inferior in the ability to take a hit. What many people do not know is that the Tiger tanks were built with the intent to fight the Soviet T34. In 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Germans were alarmed when they found that the Soviet T34 and KV1 tanks could drive right through its vaunted Panzer Divisions without being seriously injured. Point blank range shots bounced off. This mismatch was far more pronounced than the later Sherman-Tiger mismatch. The Sherman gun (Even the 76-mm) could penetrate even the frontal armor of the Tiger at ranges further than point blank.

I keep hearing about how our forces in Iraq are not properly equipped. Yes, they were not and probably are not today. However, this problem is endemic to modern warfare. Foresight can prevent many of these problems, but they still occur, no matter how much you plan.

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