Armor: January 10, 2000


Behind the controversy over General Shinseki's plan to turn the heavy tank divisions into medium armored car divisions is the tacit admission that the fast-deploying Light Infantry Divisions are too light to fight and are virtually useless in any plausible modern scenario. Mounting these divisions in 20-ton armored cars fitted with 25mm chainguns, anti-tank missiles, and 105mm cannons will provide them with the firepower and strategic mobility they have long lacked. But if the Army finds itself in the future trying to throw these medium brigades into combat with enemy tanks and other heavy armor, there are going to be problems if the battle lasts more than a few days. The only known way for such a light armored force to survive against, and defeat, a heavy armored force is to avoid direct combat and engage them in a running ambush with longer-ranged missile-type weapons. This explains the US drive to seek information dominance; knowing where the enemy is located is the first step toward avoiding direct battle. There is, as usual, plenty of existing world experience in such ideas, as the US has again come late to an idea others have experimented with. The Russians, British, and Germans have all fielded airmobile/light-mechanized forces and (while none have been used in actual combat) have extensively exercised them in an effort to find a workable doctrine. All three were convinced that the concept would work, but none ever found the opportunity to try it for real. --Stephen V Cole


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