Jump to content
tanknet.org

Drones vs. Tanks and AFVs.


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 117
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

10 hours ago, Ssnake said:

The reindroduction of Faconeering ("Eagleneering"?) would dial up style to 11, there's no discussion about that. But using actual birds of prey works only up to a certain size and probably gets the birds hurt eventually. Plus, training them costs more time than armies have. Nevertheless, an anti-drone eagle for every company commander... every ensign gets his baby eagle that follows him throughout his entire career...

In short, while actually being a surprisingly effective tool, you just can't scale their numbers as is likely to be required eventually.

I fully agree with that. Drones are likely to become an ubiquituous problem where both general troops must be equipped and trained to defend against individual drones, as well as specialized units - a new evolutionary form of classic air defense -, probably tasked to defend against massed usage of drones.

I'm just highly skeptical that solid projectiles are the adequate response. It's the hammer that all armies have, but this nail actually needs to be pulled than hammered in, if you look closely (IOW, requires a different tool).

Radar guided, RF command-detonated 40mm airburst grenades sound like something that, if it could be made to work, would have the potential to integrate well into the general force structure. But it still requires a lot more work, it seems.

Microwave guns work well against drones without tinfoil encapsulation. Unfortunately, tinfoil is cheap, light, and available in quantity. Electronic warfare works against remotely piloted drones but will be of limited value for drones operating autonomously. It also requires that you either jam the skies all the time (which hurts your side just as much, and let's not talk about the merit of continuous radio emission) - or you must detect drones in your area of operations first before you decide to jam them. May well be that we'll be seeing recce drones capable of landing on trees, like birds. Once that there's no constant propeller noise their stealthiness goes up by two orders of magnitude.

One way or the other, we will see the emergence on autonomous drone-hunting drones. Which I'd rate a more difficult task than autonomous man-hunters.

All good points, there's never be a 100% effective solution and there's always going to be a need to take multiple measures to counter drones: EW+Optical+hard kill and a few will get through.

IMO, drones are a cheap way to approach air support, but they suffer from the limitations of manned air support nonetheless

Link to post
Share on other sites

But they also expose a lack of ground based air defence, as you can not expect your manned 250 million dollar "super stealth ninja fighter" to kill them.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, RETAC21 said:

IMO, drones are a cheap way to approach air support, but they suffer from the limitations of manned air support nonetheless

Up to a point that's absolutely correct, but as I mentioned before, once that you can program to operate autonomously it'll be a total game changer. This allows for mass production, mass employment, or forward positioning with delayed, automated release for location denial: Say, you place 5,000 drones in a concealed manner near a point of interest to attack anyone in that location based on remote command or some sensors providing adequate surveillance. Then you release a few whenever someone dares to enter the forbidden zone to attack the perpetrator. Clearing several square kilometers around that location for hidden caches to remove the threat will take an enormous effort, or a very long time, and if you delay the drone response by meaningful time intervals the attacker can never be certain that there is no more danger.

This is the effect of a munition that loiters for weeks if not months, without being easily identifiable in the sky. That is a substantial difference to current air doctrine.

Likewise, the ability to amass a whole swarm of attack drones is a scaling capability to assure tactical escalation dominance and to win victories by sheer brute force; simply saturate the air defense and the rest of your swarm is guaranteed to find their targets. Can't do that with multi-million dollar jets and their human pilots. Of course, small drones don't have the range of a jet bomber can can't carry the same ordnance, so it's by no means a 1-1 replacement.

 

Another advantage is in the domain of hybrid warfare. Iran could never have mounted an air strike with jet bombers on that oil installation last year without escalating the conflict to open war. So they sent drones and achieved probably just as much damage with these rather primitive devices, and without inviting retaliatory bomber strikes on Teheran.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems to me, you can have your super all dancing drone, that is going to cost too much to be easily expendable on the battlefield. Or you can have your cheap hundred dollar drone you can happily expend, but you cant really expect it to do much other than kill a single person or vulnerable piece of equipment, like a radio. Yes, im sure there will be some crossover, but its difficult to conceive of the military moving to a throw away society, even if some of this kit can sit on the shelf for years before its expended. After all, even if it does, its going to have to go through some upgrade process to remain viable. For the most part then, Im seeing evolution, not revolution.

There is perhaps an exception to that, and there is something that makes me think, and I just throw it out there for consideration. We are of course entering an era where many defence experts say the tank is coming to the end of its road. Its possible to envisage a vehicle firing a couple of dozen expendable drones from about 5-10 miles away, and having the target locations designated by a stealthy, well armoured recce vehicle (even perhaps the vehicle itself launching a recce drone and calling in the strike from a safe location). 

At that point, you dont really need tanks anymore, particularly if the infantry have a portable HE weapon you could use for direct fire attacks or an IFV with a decent HE round.  Assuming you can of course end up with a missile or drone that can prove viable to get past an APS. or at least viable enough and cheap so you can keep spamming rounds so the APS itself runs out of rounds.

At that point, the tank is dead. You are essentially replicating the death of the big gun warships as they were replaced by missile carriers or aircraft carriers, but doing it with similar networked systems and stand off attacks on land. Which to some extent is already being done with attack helicopters or combat aircraft, but still there was judged a need for direct fire attack. Perhaps there no longer is.

Its been in my head for a while if you separated the firing and sensing unit for some years for 2 cheaper vehicles, you could get by without Tanks. And clearly some elements of this system at least already exist.

Just a crazy idea that popped in my head for some while, I offer it for general kicking around and mockery.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Ssnake said:

Up to a point that's absolutely correct, but as I mentioned before, once that you can program to operate autonomously it'll be a total game changer. This allows for mass production, mass employment, or forward positioning with delayed, automated release for location denial: Say, you place 5,000 drones in a concealed manner near a point of interest to attack anyone in that location based on remote command or some sensors providing adequate surveillance. Then you release a few whenever someone dares to enter the forbidden zone to attack the perpetrator. Clearing several square kilometers around that location for hidden caches to remove the threat will take an enormous effort, or a very long time, and if you delay the drone response by meaningful time intervals the attacker can never be certain that there is no more danger.

This is the effect of a munition that loiters for weeks if not months, without being easily identifiable in the sky. That is a substantial difference to current air doctrine.

Likewise, the ability to amass a whole swarm of attack drones is a scaling capability to assure tactical escalation dominance and to win victories by sheer brute force; simply saturate the air defense and the rest of your swarm is guaranteed to find their targets. Can't do that with multi-million dollar jets and their human pilots. Of course, small drones don't have the range of a jet bomber can can't carry the same ordnance, so it's by no means a 1-1 replacement.

Well, 5000 drones would take a lot of effort and time to assembled concealed, what you are saying is that it's a minefield in the sky, but small size means low autonomy, so only a fraction of the 5000 would be available 24/7. Small size also means small payload, so good to kill trucks, APCs, not so much.

Swarming as a tactic can surely work, but drones with adequate size and payload are going to be big (see the Harop sample above, we are talking about MLRS size), assembling 100 of them will take 12 trucks. which is not a lot but is not discrete, and at some point it's easier to use a single drone as a spotter and artillery to kill.

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, RETAC21 said:

Well, 5000 drones would take a lot of effort and time to assembled concealed,

I don't think so, but let's agree to disagree here.

Quote

what you are saying is that it's a minefield in the sky, but small size means low autonomy, so only a fraction of the 5000 would be available 24/7. Small size also means small payload, so good to kill trucks, APCs, not so much.

No. I'm talking about a parked, dormant minefield where individual mines are being woken up on command, whenever someone enters the "forbidden zone". Of course that requires surveillance of the area and a means to remotely activate a unit. But it could then launch from its concealed location with a full battery charge and execute its suicide mission. Rinse and repeat until the enemy loses interest to expend more effort at taking the installation/area/bridge/crossroads.

An RPG sized HEAT warhead doesn't weigh much to require a large, expensive drone. 5...10kg lift capacity are sufficient to transport it to the target. Give it autonomous target seeking capability, drop it from 400 or 800m with fold-out fins and automatic guidance for top attack, and you're in business. China absolutely has the capacity to develop such a system, and to clandestinely field it in quantity. Launch containers for one or three dozen units can easily be installed and left behind wherever you want them. Or deploy them for flank security during an operation.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/12/2020 at 10:57 AM, DB said:

One produces fragments from proximity / timed fuzing the others do not. Expecting direct hits from bullet throwers is optimistic. Nobody shoots in flight game birds with ball ammunition do they?

No, they fire single shots of shot shells, but thats for shorter ranges. Machine guns would put out the volume of fire that shot shells would but without having the complexity of exploding rounds in .50 and the like. One other issue with larger weapons is the ability to place them on vehicles. Every AFV can fit a crows mount which in a platoon increases fire volume. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

AI can be done relatively cheaply now and the hardware required to run it on some disposable drone can also be quite cheap. The biggest expense will be training the AI. You will want to run the drone through at least tens of thousands of simulated attacks in very varied conditions in order to get any sort of well calibrated AI.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And the hardware is cheap. You can get mobile phones with an IR camera / TV camera set-up for 600$. You also get the CPU and even a working image recognition software.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/13/2020 at 12:29 PM, Stuart Galbraith said:

It seems to me, you can have your super all dancing drone, that is going to cost too much to be easily expendable on the battlefield. Or you can have your cheap hundred dollar drone you can happily expend, but you cant really expect it to do much other than kill a single person or vulnerable piece of equipment, like a radio. Yes, im sure there will be some crossover, but its difficult to conceive of the military moving to a throw away society, even if some of this kit can sit on the shelf for years before its expended. After all, even if it does, its going to have to go through some upgrade process to remain viable. For the most part then, Im seeing evolution, not revolution.

There is perhaps an exception to that, and there is something that makes me think, and I just throw it out there for consideration. We are of course entering an era where many defence experts say the tank is coming to the end of its road. Its possible to envisage a vehicle firing a couple of dozen expendable drones from about 5-10 miles away, and having the target locations designated by a stealthy, well armoured recce vehicle (even perhaps the vehicle itself launching a recce drone and calling in the strike from a safe location). 

At that point, you dont really need tanks anymore, particularly if the infantry have a portable HE weapon you could use for direct fire attacks or an IFV with a decent HE round.  Assuming you can of course end up with a missile or drone that can prove viable to get past an APS. or at least viable enough and cheap so you can keep spamming rounds so the APS itself runs out of rounds.

At that point, the tank is dead. You are essentially replicating the death of the big gun warships as they were replaced by missile carriers or aircraft carriers, but doing it with similar networked systems and stand off attacks on land. Which to some extent is already being done with attack helicopters or combat aircraft, but still there was judged a need for direct fire attack. Perhaps there no longer is.

Its been in my head for a while if you separated the firing and sensing unit for some years for 2 cheaper vehicles, you could get by without Tanks. And clearly some elements of this system at least already exist.

Just a crazy idea that popped in my head for some while, I offer it for general kicking around and mockery.

Your logic is outdated on the viability of tanks.

The tanks were dead even before WW2, and were completely gone within years of their conception.

I assume that whatever was used in WW2 whose function was not to cross and fight over trenches, is not a tank anymore.

The tank then died in the early stages of WW2 because someone invented weapons that could defeat this new generation of tanks. And for a fact, once AP shells were invented for medium and large caliber guns, tanks were completely gone. For a fact, in the 1940-1945 period not a single tank was made or used.

The tank died yet again even though it never lived, around the 50's when light, medium, and heavy tanks have all become obsolete and replaced by the MBT.

But the MBT also died in its infancy because the ATGM was invented.

Of course, that didn't last long because the ATGM also died when composite armor was invented. 

Composite armor is quite an interesting concept. You see, the idea was born right before it died when someone invented the bigger ATGM and APFSDS, which in turn did not live very long because the APS was invented.

The APS had an even shorter run, because someone invented 7 ATGMs.

Of course, this all was written sarcastically. None of this really happened, because the homo genus went extinct several thousand years ago when someone invented the spear and everyone died.

Edited by Mighty_Zuk
Link to post
Share on other sites

Whilst the tank has often been declared dead (I claim the earliest example was actually during WW1, when Bertie Stern, director of Britains tank production effort, was told in 1917 to wind down production, because there would be no need for tanks postwar...), you have to reflect on the fact it is now a 104 year old weapons system in concept. We are witnessing the potential end of manned combat aircraft. Your own navy has replaced combat ships with drones. Even artillery is to an increased extent being replaced by PGM's rather than suppressive fires. Over 100 years is a very good lifespan for a weapon system. But it doesnt mean its immortal.

No, I dont want to see an end to the tank, and i think my own Government was far too keen to write them off even before the 2003 war, when they were briefing against them as lasting only a few more years (one of the greatest defenders of them after the Iraq war was an RAF Air Vice Marshall amusingly enough), but I do think the end is in sight. It doesnt instantly make tanks obsolete, because like like Battleships or heavy cruisers,they can still achieve effects and are clearly still useful. It does make the argument for a new generation of tanks somewhat weaker if you could (Im not saying anyone has yet, but could)put  precisions fire effects with stand off range in the hands of mechanized infantry.

In an era when defence budgets are stretched like never before, if nothing else its cheap, and dont politicians love cheap?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tanks are not dissolving. They are evolving to a new role.

What is the role of an MBT today?

1. Provide overwhelming direct firepower.

2. Be the fastest maneuvering firepower of a combat element.

3. Establish presence via survivability.

4. Defeat any possible target within the operating range of a company.

These roles were established in their current iteration around the 80's with the introduction of 3rd gen tanks, by Rolf Hilmes' classification system.

New challenges have risen since then, which MBTs today can overcome, but are no longer built optimally for:

1. Ever decreasing physical visibility and time of exposure of an enemy.

2. Distribution of firepower.

3. Shrinking of possibly independent conventional (non-SoF) combat units.

4. Still existing advantage of the sword over the shield (conceptually existed during the 2nd gen of MBTs, then reversed in the 3rd albeit not practically, and now reversed again).

5. Active protection for all.

6. Ever increasing network traffic and users.

(Points 4 and 5 are in conflict but I'll explain later)

The 4th generation of tanks will try to tackle these challenges by introducing new concepts of development that will allow exponential growth in relevant areas, instead of incremental growth, to ensure overmatch. All known 4th gen MBT development efforts have in common the way they mean to tackle these challenges:

1. Increasing the sensor package on the tank, and distribution of sensors to expendable aerial and ground platforms, to get exponentially more eyes in the arena.

2. Creation of unmanned, expendable platforms that can be the first line to engage an enemy, with the means to create a kinetic effect.

3. Dynamic creation of fighting cells based on intelligence gathered in real-time.

4. Layering multiple active defenses, on the individual and maneuvering unit levels, to shield various AFVs against traditionally invulnerable threats.

5. Providing MBT-level firepower to expendable assets with networked fires ability.

6. Utilization of MBTs and other assets as data sharing nodes.

 

What it means for an MBT is that it's not going to be the strongest, fastest, most survivable unit on the battlefield. It's going to show less presence on the front line, be a command center for coordinated ops, and almost always be accompanied by small packs of equally powerful assets for which it will merely pull the trigger. It will have a much higher dynamic range to scale its capabilities.

That is, for example, why the basic crew for all such MBTs is 2, but are really manned by 3.

And if it all sounds futuristic and all, keep in mind that this is all what TODAY's naval combat is all about.

Edited by Mighty_Zuk
Link to post
Share on other sites

Well as far as presence, I think a drone hovering over head might do the job as well, and more cheaply as a tank.  The only difficulty is creating the range to keep one on station overhead at all times.

As far as the rest, im not suggesting they are going to disappear in the next 10 years. Logic dicates that you are going to have T55's, T72's and Abrams in service for decades to come. Its more a question about whether the first world can do without them, and clearly the expense of operating large armoured formations is becoming too much to bear, to the point that if tanks are operating in trace amounts anyway, not only are they more vulnerable than they were,but they are also going to be unable to achieve decisive effects.

I dont know, I just offer it as something to consider,thats all.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

There will always be a need for the combination of protected mobile (precision) firepower. How exactly technology meets this requirement combination is subject to evolution under the pressue of ever changing threats. but it does not negate the need for "a" solution that fills this specific set of needs.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...