Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Apparently we can't even compete in armor crew skills.

U.S. Crews Fail To Place in NATO Tank Competition


Chiu ChunLing said...

It's notable that all the winning teams were in Leopards, with the Germans taking first with their most advanced model. How much actual difference did that make in the competition itself? Impossible to know for sure, but one guesses that a large part of the competition was based on performance of technical tasks in which better technology can make a real difference.

That isn't to say that the results aren't significant, just that the significance may be more complex than just an issue of the amount of training time devoted to tank tankers. The linked article about the 2016 Sullivan Cup tends to contradict that theory anyway.

Doc said...

Competition between western countries Tank units is nothing new. Sadly, the US not doing well in the competitions is nothing new either. During the Cold War, the premier Tank competition was the Canadian Army Trophy competition. The US only won it once. Millions of dollars were spent to train up a crew to defend the one win, with money spent on sports medicine folks, sport psychiatrists, you name it. The US did not repeat as champions.

Although the competition amongst NATO countries started in 1963, the US did not compete until 1977. We came in last.

The contest was held every two years. In a humorous spin on NATO, the Dutch team did not compete in 1979 due to UNION disputes (unionized Army).

In 1979, we had a team finish 4th, with M60A3 tanks.

In 1983, we finished in 2nd, 3rd and 8th place with M1 tanks; this was the first year we competed with the M1. We actually had a team compete and place using M60A1 tanks!

In 1985 an M1 unit finished in third place.

In 1987 we had our best showing and only win. We finished in first and third place. 3rd Armor Division produced the winner and spent millions to defend the win.

In 1989, the Dutch won – no union problems that year. The British didn’t compete that year. This was essentially the last competition.

In 1991, the US and Britain did not compete due to Desert Storm. The Germans won.
So, what countries tanks won these competitions:

US Tanks: 4 Victories
M47 Patton Tank – 3 Belgian Units
M1 Abrams Tank – 1 US Unit

British Tanks: 5 Victories
Centurion Tank - 3 UK 2 wins; Canada 1 Win
Chieftan Tank – 2 UK Units

German Tanks: 8 Victories
Leopard 1 – 5 Germany 4 wins; Netherlands 1
Leopard 2 – 2 Germany 1; Netherlands 1

As you can imagine back in the day, there was great national pride in Europe over winning the contest, and winning was used to support foreign sales.

Like any other big international competition, it’s hard to decide if readiness is an issue behind winning and/or losing. It’s impossible to suggest that we weren’t well trained as an Army during the Cold War. US heavy land forces were probably better trained then than any time before or after.

These types of competitions don’t merely take some Tank Platoon off the shelf and put them into competition. The competitors are selected, highly trained and pretty much released from all sorts of distractions. Winning or losing does not indicate the overall readiness of the entire force.

Heck, Belgium won three times. The Dutch won twice. Do you suppose anyone was really intimidated by their armies?

But it's good to bring the competition up. Brings back flash backs to the days when competing for excellence was important. When Divisions had rifle teams, pistol teams and shotgun teams. When boxing smokers were popular. Competition in the "manly" arts of war were a good thing. We need to bring them back.

Anonymous said...

What I find amusing is that America pulled Europe's collective asses out of the various fires of 20th century and early 21th century wars (hot and cold). Canada and GB played minor roles in that same time period.

Yet America can't place in a tanker competition? Who's stacking the deck here?

Not that we have to pick up our marbles, sulk, and go home, but maybe we need to spend less time, energy, and money (which we are SEVERELY short of), and just do a random pick of the top tank units that have recently done well at the tank tables in Grafenwoehr.

Or is that even relevant today? Is there even a Grafenwoehr? Do we even have tank units in Europe anymore? If the answer to any of the above is "no", maybe we need to rethink spending the big bucks to compete. Let the children with there pretty armies compete among themselves.

B Woodman
SSG US Army (Ret)

B-4 said...

What has held up as fact from the very first gun fight is, a two way is somewhat different than a one way no matter the weapon. Seen it time an time again. Guys/Armys have a very high hit ratio/ability in training but, when the target starts shooting back their scare paper(201 file)is all B/S on how they will preform when it gets real. Besides, hows that tank going to fair when a A-10 or "Rod of God" is hunting it? Take a person off their home range and their hit ration drops as well.

Unknown said...

After all, how competitive do you have to be if the primary upcoming use will be against citizens with .38s!

Pericles said...

A few comments from an Armor guy who did a one year liaison with Panzer Brigade 12.

In the 1980s, the Leopard 2A4 had the commander's independent thermal sight, which was a slight advantage - the field of view on the course is somewhat narrow, or it would have been a bigger advantage. This sight is now on the M1A2, to that advantage is negated. At the gunner's fire control station, the M1 has ammunition selection, weapon selection, and laser range finder as hand operated controls. The Leopard 2 family has the laser range finder as foot switch, so the right hand does not have to operate the range finder in addition to other knobs.

The US training philosophy concentrates on crew level training, with the crew qualification Tank Table VIII as the last in sequence. The NATO competition has as part of the exercise, platoon fire distribution and control. The US tends to leave as an academic exercise in training for the platoon leader and platoon sergeant to deal with when the time comes. The Germans incorporate platoon level fire control into unit training.

I knew the project officer for the 3AD G-3 back in 1987 for the US win, and they trained to the contest, rather than rely on simulators and the usual US training scheme. Of course, using armor units to do missions that are not really armor missions for the last 15 years could not have done much good either.

Anonymous said...

The article also noted that in the domestic competition all the active units were beat out by a North Carolina Guard tank. Commanded by an insurance claims adjuster, driven by a Pepsi truck driver, with a college student and an aspiring police office rounding out the crew.