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"AFV Combat Speed" Topic

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Wartopia17 Jun 2011 6:53 p.m. PST

In defense contractor promo videos massive tanks are shown flying over obstacles while keeping their guns trained on distant targets. Impressive!

However, in countless videos from Iraq and Afghanistan AFVs are shown creeping along or stopped to engage targets. Of course these are all most entirely well concealed infantry targets.

But are modeen AFV crews expected to hit infantry and/or vehicle targets while traveling cross country at high speeds?

Or is target acquisition and identification so important and difficult that it's only really safe and practical to shoot while stationary or moving at reduced speed?

How about the impact of near future and far future tech? Might it enable AFVs to engage targets while at high speed? We've certainly come a long ways from WWII tech but when I watch current AFV ops they look a lot like WWII ops!

Opinions of former and current AFV crewman eagerly sought! :-)

Tankrider17 Jun 2011 7:18 p.m. PST

Modern AFV's with state of the art fire control systems are perfectly capable of hitting targets on the move at speed across terrain. The videos of tanks flying through the air like Evil Knievel while doing so are definitly for "the highlight reel", but yea.. it happens. I've gotten air many o' time in an Abrams and it's not such a big deal.

If a modern tank is moving slow and cautious and deliberately placing its shots, like what you're seeing in combat footage in urban areas in Iraq and Afghanistan, its most likely because the proximity of dismounted friendlies or non-combatants in the area. Otherwise, slamming in there hard and fast while shooting the crap out of the place is the more applicable technique.

Mako1117 Jun 2011 7:29 p.m. PST

I think the slow-moving vehicles are more about situational awareness, and not wanting to fall into a trap. As mentioned above, you don't want to out-run your infantry support.

Sure, you can fly along at 30 – 40+ MPH, in good going, but doing so leaves you pretty exposed to RPG's, mines, IED's, A/T missiles, etc.

raylev317 Jun 2011 7:40 p.m. PST

It's a perfect example of maximum speed (capability) vs. the actual speed used in combat. Many people argue for the ability to use the maximum capable speed in wargames, but when you're on the battlefield, you move much more cautiously, and terrain, possible enemy fire, etc. limit you to a lesser speed.

raylev317 Jun 2011 9:43 p.m. PST

Back to your original question…I've got no doubt that a tank could be "capable" of engaging a target at high speed, but there are other factors that will effect whether or not it will do so in actual combat.

For example, my tank doesn't operate in a vaccum. How will the terrain impact my ability to move fast? Will the enemy be engaging me at the same time? If so, that will require me to use the terrain for cover.

Capabilities do not exist in a laboratory on the battlefield. I believe that realistically the limitations of the battlefield (Clausewitz' concept of friction), will inhibit the pure technological capability you describe.

CPT Jake18 Jun 2011 3:10 a.m. PST

I hit a moving target (maybe 20 KPH) at over 3500 meters, at night, from an M1A2 going about 40 KPH. So yeah, the tech is there. The ride is actually smoother at speed and the multi axis stabalized sights and fire control computers are pretty darned good.

Tirailleur corse18 Jun 2011 4:12 a.m. PST

Not beeing a tanker myself but a poor infantry man… on foot, I guess the main thing is the ability for the tankers, not only to engage, shoot and hit when moving at (high!) speed, the tech allows this, but rather for the crew to spot a target in those conditions.
Especially if small and hidden.
What do you think "Tankrider" and Jake??
By the way Jake…. good show!

CPT Jake18 Jun 2011 4:39 a.m. PST

Sensor tech is getting better too. Thermal/low light sights coupled with shot detectors and laser warning devices are getting better and better. Spotting a target, unless it is REALLY trying to not be spotted is not too hard. Even then, vehicles vent exhaust that shows up even when the vehicle is behind a berm or building. I've found a single person, unless very still and low, is easily seen as a person at 2000+ meters. Obvioulsy in urban areas it is a lot easier for a person to hide, but once they pop a shot the shot detectors on a lot of the vehicles (and on some of the crunchies!) help to localize where he is nicely (range and direction).

What is still a biotch is correctly identifying a target (is that a civilian, a camel, or an DNBG?) at long ranges. Is that object the 'hostile' is carrying an RPG or a TV camera? At 2000 meters that may not be an easy call, especially against a fleeting target/small engagement window.

It will never be perfect, but it is a lot better and improving.

spontoon18 Jun 2011 6:24 a.m. PST

Flying along a t 40km/hr cross country must be rough on the crew, too!

Lampyridae18 Jun 2011 9:10 a.m. PST

Now mix things up and give the enemy crunchies stealthy, man-portable missiles / drones that can penetrate the side or top armour of the latest Abrams.

donlowry18 Jun 2011 10:18 a.m. PST

So, should rules cut back the speed of AFVs on the table?

Lampyridae18 Jun 2011 10:44 a.m. PST

I was thinking AFVs, depending on the threat, get different kinds of saves for moving at different speeds. +1 against RPGs if in a dense environment and travelling slow, +1 versus anti-tank guns if moving fast in the open. Or else just have the real possibility of being brewed up if in the open just make it much easier to hit tanks,or for tanks to hit anything else.

Tanks are very much the fly in the 15mm ointment. They may as well be off board artillery!

CPT Jake18 Jun 2011 3:31 p.m. PST


Who won the CAT in 1987? With what type of tank?


Just saying…. (one of my TCs was on the team as a loader, obviously before he was in my platoon in the early 90s)

And I've been in M1 series tanks that have caught air (and actually have one incident on video). As long as you warn the gunner so he can brace you're usually okay. Well, as long as you don't hit something that brings you to a sudden stop.


Zephyr118 Jun 2011 6:43 p.m. PST

"So, should rules cut back the speed of AFVs on the table?"

Give advantages and disadvantages to fast & slow speeds, then let the players learn the hard way which to use when…. ;)

donlowry19 Jun 2011 9:51 a.m. PST

One thing I do in my online games is not allow players to make jack-rabbit starts nor stop on a dime. So, if your tank is barreling down the road at top speed you cannot suddenly come to a screeching halt, nor can you go from a stop to top speed in one turn. Also, these games being set in WW2, you can shoot or you can move but seldom do both in the same turn.

Grizzlymc19 Jun 2011 10:34 a.m. PST

"So, should rules cut back the speed of AFVs on the table?"

Depends on your granularity – spotting distances and accuracy should drop considerably at speed, modern fir control should help a bit.

If you are modelling an insurgency, you might have the unit adopt a "posture"

So if they go super aggressive, they see enemy crunchies, they can wax them – oh and the mother and two children too, lost victory points!

They go all cautious, confirm identiy before they shoot, that ATGM gets to fire first.

WWII I do not believe that your chance of hitting on the move is worth a Lou Zocchi 1-100 die. Supression with MG maybe, if you are moving slowly on good ground.

Martin Rapier19 Jun 2011 11:11 a.m. PST

" I get the impression from what I saw in West Germany in the late 80s that with the M1A1, the US had thrown fire and movement out."

If you have a tank which can shrug off hits from any likely AT opposition, then you indeed ignore fire & movement to a degree. That was exactly the case with the tactical regs for Tigers, they were rapidly revised in 1943 and Tigers were expected to use fire & movement like everyone else.

I still find it hard to believe that deliberately exposing your vehicle to evey weapon on the battlefield can be considered to be good practice. Presumably tank crews still learn how to use terrain for cover, if just to avoid being detected?

Once any unit, vehicle or foot, starts to move tactically and use the terrain, things slow down a great deal.

Griefbringer19 Jun 2011 11:35 a.m. PST

However, in countless videos from Iraq and Afghanistan AFVs are shown creeping along or stopped to engage targets. Of course these are all most entirely well concealed infantry targets.

It is worthwhile to remember that the mission at hand spells out the behaviour of the tanks. Presumably on most of those videos that you were referring to, the tanks were probably giving long-range fire support to infantry trying to clean out a specific area. On such mission, there is little benefit to be had from driving around like crazy – what you rather need is a good firing position from which you can cover as much of the target area as possible.

We've certainly come a long ways from WWII tech but when I watch current AFV ops they look a lot like WWII ops!

Or perhaps even like WWI operations?

But then again, actual armoured operations – where the tanks are expected to engage in deep operations against other conventional forces – are rather rare in these days. What you see in TV are not usually armoured operations, but infantry operations with a few tanks in support.

(Jake Collins of NZ 2)19 Jun 2011 11:58 a.m. PST

Soviet planning norms (source 'Strategic Geography' by Hugh Faringdon p53):

- on metalled road 50-40kph
- on gravel or hardcore road 45-40kph
- on earth road 25-25kph
- cross country 15-10kph

Wartopia19 Jun 2011 1:16 p.m. PST


Fully agree about the nature of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's primarily AFVs firing in support of infantry with both trying to make sure they don't kill friendlies or civilians by accident. Tne targets are infantry dressed in civilian garb hiding in civilian buildings all of which must slow the pace of combat.

Perhaps a good case study for the AFV vs AFV part of this issue is Gulf War I and the initial invasion of Iraq. Anyone of good info on these fights? I've read Thunder Run, Eyesof Orion, and a couple of others. Fear of fratricide seemed to slow the pace of combat a bit. Were there kills by Coalition forces against Iraqi vehicles while on the move at significant speed?

Grand Duke Natokina20 Jun 2011 10:46 a.m. PST

I was in the gunner's seat at Knox and, as you know, the gunner doesn't control the gun travelling cross country, the TC did not have the tube elevated enough when we turned off road and up slope in the Bowling Alley. Punching the tube into the mud brings an M-60A1 to an abrupt halt.

UshCha20 Jun 2011 10:27 p.m. PST

In the LAW 72 manual it notes that the sight is set for up to 12 mph and says you are unlikely to see a vehical going faster than tat in combat. Bear in mind if the tank is rushing around near enemy crunchies he may not be doing it for long.

On speeds in wargames the thing is not to allow infinite improability drive. Stupid speeds with no disadvantages. We have three simple speed bands, Slow where its easy to stop. Fast has a minimum speed and a slowing down phase plus no really sharp turns and a superfast speed but no spotting and only in good going/roads. There may be places where this last mode is unrealistic. Say a salt lake that is billiard table flat where high speed is "smooth". However where you are likely to play a game worth playing, this is not an issue. How does it work? In open terrain the tanks often use fast. In urban rarely will they use fast mode. Seems like we have got is somewhere near.

ScoutJock22 Jun 2011 6:31 p.m. PST

Who won the CAT in 1987? With what type of tank?

Ah yes the Canadian Army Trophy.

I was with 2/1 Cav with 2AD (FWD) in Garlstedt at the time. 2-66 had just rotated in from Ft Hood a few months earlier and accordig to them, was going to dominate CAT for the duration of their rotation in Germany. As one of their platoon leaders told me, "You learn to drive tanks at Ft Knox, but you learn how to fight with them at Ft Hood; and we are the best trained armor battalion in theater" Well, to make a long story short, the Brits and the Belgians handed them their, err hats. The brigade had a dining in a couple of weeks after the competition and we decided to celebrate their prowess. A couple of Cobra pilots and I went down to Dr Mueller's in Bremen and bought a blow up doll. After sneaking her into the mess, we dressed her in a dress blue jacket complete with butter-bar shoulder boards and 2-66 armor brass and then inflated her under the table. We put a cav stetson on her head with more armor brass and a sign with her name: Ms Kitty Kat. We put her at the head of our table right as the food was served and nobody really noticed her for a while because everybody at the Cav table was wearing stetsons. One of the tankers finally noticed her and threw a dinner roll and missed, but the Brigade Commander saw it and pitched a fit about proper decorum until he saw the intended target. He jumped up and demanded we remove the doll and ourselves from his dining in. The ADC, who was laughing so hard at this point, fell out of his chair which distracted the Bde CO. The ADC jumped up, came over, bowed and asked her to dance. He proceeeded to swing her around the floor for a few minutes and then deposited her in the lap of the 2-66 Battalion Commander, telling him to keep better track of his junior officers and that he was lucky the Cav found her wondering around the ranges at Graf and brought her home. Everybody had a good laugh but to this day I don't know what happened to her after the dining in. My guess is one of the tankers made her a war bride.

Dragon Gunner22 Jun 2011 7:58 p.m. PST

You guys should try World of Tanks online its free, granted its a game but I learned a few things the hard way paying for my mistakes by getting brewed up…

Major Mike23 Jun 2011 5:33 a.m. PST

CAT 1981, supported by 1/13 Armor. The US competition unit used the M60a3 and spent months preparing for the competition. After all the countries had sent their teams downrange, they allowed the supporting battalion, in M60a1's, to send some adhoc teams down range. Some of these teams (without practice) out shot competition teams (to include the M60a3's). Many of the observing Generals were impressed.

Lion in the Stars25 Jun 2011 10:08 p.m. PST

As far as in-game events go, I think that tank speed just doesn't matter much in most modern games. I mean, most of the modern games I play are infantry-based, with tanks in support, so the tank isn't going to move fast.

However, if I was gaming Desert Storm or OIF in 6mm or 3mm, then I would expect to be able to hit targets at speed. What was that story I heard? A mixed formation of Bradleys and Abrams (company or two of each) was advancing at speed through the desert with Bradleys leading. The Bradleys call back saying that they found a bunch of Iraqi tanks. The Abrams reply, "We've got them, don't even slow down," pass the Bradleys at 45+, and lay waste to a (regiment?) of dug-in T72s.

But I'm not going to play that battle out using Ambush Alley!

Lampyridae26 Jun 2011 9:12 a.m. PST

If the Abrams were fighting a bunch of equivalent tanks, that (I reckon) would not be the case. I think such "blitzkrieg" tactics would have been severely punished by a competent foe.

Lion in the Stars26 Jun 2011 2:11 p.m. PST

The problem is that an Abrams is just about invulnerable from the front arc. I mean, I think you could hurt one with maybe an 8" naval gun (335lb shell at 2800fps), but there's not a lot of 8" naval guns on the ground battlefield.

The 125mm on a T72 has some serious respect from the Israelis, but I don't think an Abrams has ever been penetrated by a 125. I know multiple shots from the Abram's 120mm failed to brew up one disabled Abrams.

As far as operational-level games go, it doesn't matter how fast your tanks are. What matters is how fast your Logistics elements are, because a tank with no fuel is a bunker, and bunkers are easy to drop bombs on.

The real problem with an Abrams is how heavy it is. It takes far too long to deploy them in any usable quantity at the strategic level. A 15-ton tank with a 120mm gun and active protection systems would be much faster to deploy, so you wouldn't need as many of them.

Oh, almost forgot. IFVs like a Bradley can shoot their gun on the move, but cannot shoot missiles on the move.

number426 Jun 2011 6:21 p.m. PST

Guys, first of all thank you, THANK YOU for your service, but this is the WWII discussion board, so lets get back to the original question – which probably should not have been posted here in the first place.

Most WWII tanks could not move and fire, period. The Brits however were trained to do so (for what it was worth), and with that in mind the 2 pounder mount moved freely, braced against the gunner's shoulder, much like an LMG

The Sherman had the famous Westinghouse stabilizer which worked in the vertical axis only, but was so troublesome most crews disabled it.

WWII tank tactics were more akin to artillery, with fire having to be adjusted; for example the Tiger gunnery manual instructed the tank commander to direct his gunner onto a target, announce the ammunition and type of target (tank, antitank gun, etc.), and give his initial range estimation.

After the gunner fired he was to observe the round's tracer and impact and tell his observation sensing to the tank commander. If the round fell short or over, the tank commander gave the gunner adjustments based on his estimated target range until the target was hit. Sorry, Playstation fans, but that's the way it was.

CPT Jake27 Jun 2011 1:41 a.m. PST

Actually, it IS cross posted to the MODERN board, AND the opening post clearly indicates an interest in moderns and near future.


Lampyridae27 Jun 2011 3:51 a.m. PST

The problem is that an Abrams is just about invulnerable from the front arc. I mean, I think you could hurt one with maybe an 8" naval gun (335lb shell at 2800fps), but there's not a lot of 8" naval guns on the ground battlefield.

Exactly. Eventually it would devolve into a close-quarters slugging match with tanks being ground into attrition. Not unlike Battletech, if one thinks about it.

Lion in the Stars27 Jun 2011 10:31 a.m. PST

Based on the cross-posting list, this was first posted to scifi, then to WW2 and Moderns (or the opposite, but either way WW2 was not the original post location).

From what I know, the gunnery commands for a modern tank are very similar to what the Germans used in their Tigers.

TC calls target location and type of round to fire. The gunner lases the target for range (and announces range, IIRC), and lets the computer figure out the trajectory. As long as the gunner holds down the 'lase' trigger, the FC comp will hold the barrel on target.

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