February 21, 2020

Open Thread 46

It's time, once again, for our regular Open Thread. Talk about anything you want, even if it's not naval/military related.

I recently finished reading The Sea and Civilization, by Lincoln Paine. It's billed as a Maritime History of the World, although it's probably more accurately described as a history of the maritime world. Paine is comprehensive, looking at maritime activity across the globe and from the earliest days we have any evidence for to the present. Overall, I really enjoyed it, although my enjoyment was generally inversely proportional to how well I understood the era. My biggest beef was the coverage of WWI, particularly given his supposed emphasis on how the maritime world influences wider history. The effects of the blockade on Germany were essentially ignored, as was the importance of the naval mutinies in the fall of the Kaiser. But even then, the issue is more one of emphasis than fact, and I'd recommend the book as a whole.

Overhauled posts for 2018 are Why Military Acquisition is So Hard, Amphibious Warfare Parts three and four, Classes, Dreadnought, and Propulsion Part 1. For 2019, overhauls are Commercial Aviation Part 7, Falklands Part 11, So You Want to Build a Battleship - Construction Part 1, Pictures - Iowa Boiler Room, German Guided Bombs Part 2, and my reviews of military/maritime museums in Singapore.


  1. February 21, 2020Neal said...

    Coincidence that you led with mention of as I was going to ask on this thread what Bean's audience was/is reading.

    Apart from working through Roscoe's work on the US WW2 submarine efforts I am splitting the time with Sinclair MacKay's new examination of the Dresden raid.

  2. February 21, 2020Neal said...

    I hit post too soon. Accidently edited out a couple of words.

    Meant to say: "you led with mention of your recent reading as I was going to ask..."

  3. February 22, 2020Johan Larson said...

    What's the smallest/lightest weapon system that is capable of destroying the current generation of battle tanks, like the M1A2 Abrams? Can any of the man-portable missile launchers, like MATADOR, manage it?

    I suppose there are plenty of anti-tank mines that can manage it, but suppose we want to do this from a distance.

  4. February 22, 2020bean said...

    Most of the modern ATGMs should be able to do that. Javelin has a top-attack mode that lets it face much thinner armor.

  5. February 22, 2020Alexander said...

    The NLAW is heavier than the MATADOR, but not vastly so, and features a top attack mode.

  6. February 22, 2020Lambert said...

    What does this mean for tank doctrine?

    Sounds like it's a bad time to be holed up in a slowmoving box with a significant heat signature when the sky's full of anti-tank missiles and bombs that are capable of preternatural feats of aerobatics.

    Big things like ships have moved from armour to CIWS to counter missiles before they reach the target, but that doesn't seem to scale down well enough. Reactive armour is a thing but it sounds easier to build a smarter warhead than to cover a tank in smarter armor.

  7. February 22, 2020DampOctopus said...

    Tank defenses have moved on in a similar fashion, though more slowly, and without abandoning heavy armor. Apart from jamming systems (e.g. Shtora), there are hard-kill systems like Trophy and Arena that act in a broadly similar fashion to CIWS: the incoming missile is targeted by a radar, then destroyed by a large number of small, inert projectiles.

    These do make the area around the tank an unhealthy place for friendly infantry, which presumably has an effect on tank doctrine.

  8. February 24, 2020bean said...

    It's probably also worth pointing out that modern ATGMs aren't all that common. Even the US has a relatively small supply, and a lot of potential adversaries don't have them at all. And while an Abrams is going to have trouble dealing with a Javelin without the help of active defenses, it's going to be pretty resistant to RPGs and the like.

  9. February 24, 2020Alexander said...

    I thought that the cold war answer to ATGM equipped infantry was artillery. Is that right, or am I being mislead by games that try to create a sort of stone/paper/scissors relationship? How has the move from volume of fire to precision altered the ability of artillery to suppress dismounted infantry?

  10. February 24, 2020Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Another salient difference here (and the big reason why tanks still have armor - more than ever, even - and ships largely gave theirs up), is that tanks, necessarily, operate in peashooter range. They don't have the luxury of being big enough to soak up a few small shots (even a frigate is unlikely to be mission-killed by an HMG or a 20mm cannon outside a monumentally lucky shot), and they don't have the luxury of operating outside of peashooter range, so they still need to be peashooter-proof, even if the big stuff will kill them, armor or no armor.

    To boot, tanks do generally have infantry escort, in large part to deal with the swarm-of-guys armed with rockets, satchel charges or modern ATGMs.

    Also, tanks really are very nearly armored all over at least to some extent, while as we know (but many random net.commentators don't), armored ships weren't.

  11. February 25, 2020echo said...

    I had never heard about the Honda Point Disaster until reading up on WWI era US destroyers.

    Ordering new 9 destroyers to ram the California coast puts the recent Pacific fleet cockups into perspective, although 1920s navigation technology makes it slightly more understandable.

  12. February 25, 2020bean said...

    Yeah, an interesting event, and one that's on my list at some point. Probably not immediately. But a definite caution in terms of "be sure you're not doing something stupid."

  13. February 26, 2020beleester said...

    @DampOctopus: I suspect if a tank is getting hit by missiles, you don't want to be standing next to it whether or not it has an APS.

    @Alexander: It's pretty close, although I would say the rock-paper-scissors nature doesn't really hold up outside the Cold War setting. The expectation was, the Soviets would move forwards with their massive tank army, we would counter with loads of ATGMs doing hit-and-run attacks and ambushes, the Soviets would counter that counter by leading with artillery to kill any would-be ambushers. But that slows them down a lot, meaning they can't blitz through Western Europe like they wanted.

    If you're fighting a battle that's not a tank blitz through Europe - e.g., you're attacking a city that you don't want to flatten with artillery, or you're fighting in big open spaces without good places to dig in - the strategy will probably look a bit different.

    This also leaves out IFVs, which carry ATGMs but don't die so easily to artillery, and air power, neither of which fit neatly into the rock-paper-scissors triangle and were a pretty big part of NATO's strategy.

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