Building A Tank Force For Your Interstellar Army | Tank Types, Naming Conventions & Doctrines

Building A Tank Force For Your Interstellar Army | Tank Types, Naming Conventions & Doctrines

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You know, it’s the damnedest thing, but ever  since I returned to the Templin Institute from   an undisclosed location in Eastern Europe, I  can’t stop thinking about tanks. I find them   intensely interesting. From their debut in the  First World War in which they were deployed break   the static trench lines on the Western Front, to  their dominance on the Eastern Front some 30 years   later, where great fleets armor dueled in places  like Brody, Kharkov and Kursk, all the way to the   modern era where the equipment and doctrines of  the Cold War began to clash with new realities. But what future does the tank have? Even  today there are theorists who declare it   to be an obsolete piece of technology, doomed to  be replaced by advanced aircraft, drones or other   types of vehicles. And that might be so, maybe in  the future tanks will be cast alongside zeppelins   or boards with nails in them, as no longer needed  in warfare. But when I look at the armies of  

alternate worlds fighting across interstellar  wars, armies which indeed lack these kinds of   armoured vehicles, I can’t help but think that  they might be better off if they had a few tanks. Sure the scale might be bigger, but in  so many of these wars and conflicts,   the battlefield situations for which these  vehicles were designed were still present   and in my opinion at least, tanks could  altered the course of the fighting.   The wildlife of Pandora might have been able to  overcome the “Amplified Mobility Platforms” used   by the RDA, but I doubt they would have been as  successful trying to tip over a 70 ton tank. The  

United Federation of Planets wouldn’t have needed  to rely on WWI tactics against the dominion or the   klingons, the Mobile Infantry of the Terran  Federation would have actually been mobile   and no tricky use of tow cables would have stopped  Imperial tanks, if they’d had any, on Hoth. In some cases, the lack of tanks and other  armoured fighting vehicles makes sense. We might   forgive Stargate Command for relying on light  infantry when they were limited to whatever could   fit through a wormhole with a 20 foot diameter.  Not much chance an M1 Abrams was going to make it  

very far through that. The Alliance to Restore the  Republic also made very little and sporadic use of   tanks because they were in most cases trying  to avoid the pitched battles those vehicles   were designed for. And the remnants of the 12  Colonies of Kobol simply lost all their tanks   when the Cylons destroyed their homeworlds and  were left to fight with what they had. So while   some interstellar armies might be excused for the  lack of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles in   their inventory, there’s others where I think  the words of one Heinz Guderain remain true. “Whenever in future wars the battle is fought,  armored troops will play the decisive role.”

So if we can agree that tanks might still have  a place within the armies mobilized to fight   interstellar wars, what characteristics should  they have, what features should they avoid,   what kinds of vehicles make the most sense to  deploy and how should they all be categorized.   These are the questions we’ll be  discussing on this episode of Incoming.   And find yourself a comfy chair, make another  batch of stroganoff with maybe some homemade   creme fraiche instead of sour cream this time,  and grab a vanilla coke, cause this is a long one. But before we begin, it’s important to  note that depending on which alternate   world you find yourself within, the nature of its  battlefields can vary drastically. Some possess   fantastic technologies or supernatural abilities  that can fundamentally alter the nature of war   and others have seen the adoption of new types of  machines that might have largely supplanted the   traditional tank. For this reason, I’ll be talking  about the systems involved in a tank design  

in a largely imprecise way. I can't tell you an  autocannon is a better choice over a laser or   that you should always pick shields instead of  armor when these concepts vary so tremendously   across alternate worlds. So with that in  mind, this guide might not be relevant to   every interstellar army, but hopefully  can be something of a starting point. And I should also mention that while in  most cases I’ll be referencing the vehicles   used by “interstellar armies”,  those required to fight across   multiple planets or star systems,  this won’t always be the case.   In some instances, it will be necessary to draw  examples from armies that while not technically   interstellar, are nevertheless suitably  advanced and unique enough to be included.

And so, with my futile attempt to reduce comments   that begin with the phrase “um  actually” now over, let’s begin. One of the interesting bits of  history or trivia surrounding tanks,   is that unlike say firearms or artillery,  where we don’t have a clear picture of   their origins and first use, or aircraft whose  civilian origins made their role in conflicts   not immediately understood, tanks were  designed to fulfill a very clear function   and in a conflict recent enough to make their  combat history relatively well recorded.   In short, we can say definitively why tanks  were designed, where they were first utilized   and how they’ve performed ever since. This  gives us a solid foundation to work from. And that foundation begins on the  Western Front of the first World War,   a combination of technological developments, the  relative parity of the countries on either side,   and the terrain being fought over, created  a situation where most battles heavily   favored the defender. This in turn resulted in a  stalemate and both the Allies and Central Powers  

would spend much of the war looking for a way to  break it. The landship, later known as the tank,   was one of the solutions presented to solve  this problem. They were armoured vehicles,   mobile enough to cross rugged battlefield terrain,  armoured enough to survive the fire of the enemy,   and equipped with enough offensive firepower  to break through entrenched enemy defenses.

The first use of the tank was on 15 September  1916 during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette,   part of the larger Battle of the Somme.  Their performance here was mixed. The   British MKI tanks were generally unreliable  as a result of their rushed design process,   and not available in large enough  numbers to make a significant difference.   But the concept was proven to have potential,  and today, over a century later they have   grown to form a core part of modern armies and  fulfill, more or less, that same battlefield role. As is to be expected however, a century of  development and combat use has expanded,   refined, and in some cases, dramatically  changed their characteristics.  

There’s even some debate on whether the  term “tank” should be used to refer to   certain armoured fighting vehicles. Fundamentally  though, every tank or AFV is still a balance   of those three characteristics:  Mobility, Protection and Firepower. Mobility might stream straightforward, but  there’s a few layers to the underlying concept.   The first is known as “tactical mobility” and is  probably the most obvious. How fast is the tank,   how quickly can it accelerate, brake or turn on  various kinds of terrain. Can it clear obstacles  

like walls or trenches or environmental  considerations like rivers and forests.   Second you have “operational mobility”, how well  it can move within a larger area of operations,   or from battlefield to battlefield. The third  major layer is known as “strategic mobility”.   This refers to how quickly and effectively the  tank can be transported to the battlefield.  

Most tanks are relatively slow and rely  on some external transportation system   like ships, railways or aircraft  when travelling long distances. Just as an example, a Sherman tank breaking  through ruined buildings during street fighting in   Caen would be demonstrating tactical mobility. It  racing to liberate Paris would be a demonstration   of operational mobility, and it being shipped to  Japan and then Korea would be strategic mobility.

It’s my belief that between the three,  strategic mobility would be one of the most   important factors of a tank designed for use in an  interstellar army. Payload capacity is always one   of the most limiting design characteristics of  any spacecraft, making sure tanks can be loaded   onto an interstellar transport as efficiently  as possible would be a huge consideration.   Your nation might have the best tank in  the galaxy, but if its too big to fit on   your starships and it can’t get to where it  needs to go, that tank is suddenly useless.

But when not being transported externally, a  tank’s mobility is usually achieved through   continuous tracks or wheels and each offers  various advantages or disadvantages to both   Tactical, Operational and Strategic mobility.  Tracks are much better at overcoming rugged   terrain and unfavorable conditions such as  heavy mud, ice or sand. This comes at the   expense of their overall top speed. Wheels by  contrast are less suited towards rough terrain,  

but they offer much greater fuel efficiency  and are less maintenance intensive. As such,   they can travel much longer distances. Now it  should be noted there is some debate on whether   tracks are a fundamental characteristic of tank  design, and if wheeled vehicles should be called   something else like a “maneuver combat vehicle”.  That’s not a debate that I’d like to get into,  

but for the purposes of this video, I’m willing  to stretch the definitions a bit. I’ll just   draw the line at legs, put those on a tank and  you have a walker, or battlemech or whatever. But there’s one other popular method of  propelling tanks across the battlefield   that we see utilized very often  within interstellar armies.   And this leads me to tangent  #1: Anti-gravity or hover tanks.

The main benefits to a propulsion system like  this is that a hovertank would likely be able   to achieve a much higher top speed and be largely  immune to things like rivers, lakes, lava flows,   and other hazardous environmental features.  This by itself is a huge advantage.   River crossings are traditionally some of the most  dangerous operations a tank can be involved in.   Deep wading or fording, where a tank drives across  a river using a snorkel to provide engine intake,   is exceptionally risky and wildly unpopular with  crews, even when they’re not under enemy fire.  

Being able to simply drive across rivers without  requiring deep fording or the construction of   bridges would be of huge strategic benefit.  But there is also another potential benefit,   that a hovertank might be immune to landmines. I’m  a little less sure about this. In any alternate   reality where the technology available has made  hovertanks commonplace, it seems incredibly likely   that landmines that can detect the presence  of hovertanks above them are also commonplace. A more universal downside, is that regardless of  how the tank is made to hover, it’s only going to   be effective over flat terrain; water, grasslands,  sand. On any kind of rocky or ruined battlefield  

where you have sudden and unpredictable variances  in elevation, it seems pretty likely that the   hovertank would just start banging into stuff.  Additionally, I have to assume that whatever   technology allows the tank to hover, is coming  at the expense of something else. Maybe the tank   needs to be lighter or carry a smaller gun, there  is likely some kind of trade off. And personally,  

while I can’t defend this point objectively,  I think hover tanks just look stupid,   let me grind the skulls of the enemy to  dust beneath my treads, not hover over them. In conclusion, I think an argument  can definitely be made for the use   of hovertanks within interstellar armies, but I  don’t believe every tank should be a hovertank.   Maybe a unit of hovertanks can be used  to establish a foothold across the river   before bridging equipment and tracked  vehicles are brought over to reinforce. Okay, but moving on. The second major  characteristic of tank design is protection. This   isn’t simply a tank’s armor, shields, or whatever,  but a whole array of interconnecting principals,   layered on top of each other that are collectively  sometimes known as the Protection Onion. The outer layer of the Onion is the idea of  avoiding a dangerous encounter in the first place.  

Your tank can’t be shot at, if your tank is  nowhere near anything that can shoot at you.   In this case, communications equipment or  sensors that tie an individual vehicle into   a wider networked environment, are  just as useful as additional armor.   Possible threats to the tank can be  pinpointed by a starship in orbit,   automated satellites or drones, other  vehicles or even boots on the ground.  

Once identified and these threats properly  communicated the tank now knows to avoid them. But that’s not always feasible, which  brings us to the next layer of the Onion:   avoiding detection. Originally, this was as  simple as slapping some green paint on a tank   and hoping nobody noticed it hiding in a bush. But  as the ways of detecting tanks have evolved so too  

have the methods of circumventing that detection.  Again, this is something that will depend on the   technology of the alternate reality this tank  finds itself within. In most cases, it will   refer to masking the electronic, radar, acoustic,  infrared and the magnetic signature of the tank,   but if your enemy can detect the  psychic presence of the tank’s crew,   or some other method, then wearing tinfoil hats  would fall into this layer of the umbrella.   Likewise, if Gods or other supernatural forces  are actively involved on the battlefield,   then prayer might also be utilized  here, although I feel like prayer   might extend across every layer of the  onion, that’s something to think about.

But, maybe in spite of everything, your  tank has been spotted. The next layer of   the onion is to avoid being acquired by enemy  systems. This is another aspect where there's   no universal technological solution, but unique  applications that vary from reality to reality.   I’m sure the Covenant fighting on Reach use a  drastically different method of acquiring targets,   compared to say, the Soviet Union trying  to take over Europa. Countermeasures might  

include things like decoys, smoke or other  obscurants, or some sort of jamming device. Once a shot is fired though, we move into the  next next layer, avoiding being hit. At the   risk of sounding like a broken record, this is  again heavily dependent on whatever technology is   available within the alternate reality your tank  operates within. In our own world, there are many  

different counter-measures in use, but generally  fit into soft-kill or hard-kill measures.   A soft-method would alter the tracking or sensing  behavior of an incoming threat causing it to veer   off course. This might be flares or counter-radar  chaff, or again, depending on where you find   yourself, something more fantastical. If some sort  of Tyranid living ammunition is being shot at you,   projecting a pheromone that makes your tank smell  like the ammunition’s brood-mother, would probably   be a soft-kill measure. A hard kill measure would  be some sort of direct counter-attack meant to   intercept and neutralize the incoming threat. This  could be some sort of missile or other kinetic   attack, or if you had a Jedi in your tank crew,  maybe using the force to stop enemy blaster fire.

But, if your tank exists  in a post-Order 66 universe   or that Tyranid living ammunition  really hated its brood mother,   we end up in the penultimate layer of our  onion. Avoiding penetration, and this,   finally is where elements like armor, shields  or whatever, finally comes into play. The more   you can pack onto a tank or the better you can  economize it, the better a tank’s survivability. The last layer to the Onion is ensuring  that even if every countermeasure fails,   and the tank is hit and penetrated, this  doesn’t necessarily result in a kill.   These could be redundant systems, allowing  the vehicle to continue functioning even if   a major component is damaged, or one last layer of  protection afforded to the vehicle's crew. If your  

tank is unmanned or is crewed by droids or robots  or whatever, this may not even be a major issue. But, moving away from protection, the last  major characteristic is a tank’s firepower,   and thankfully this is the most straightforward  of the three. A tank’s main weapon is typically   a single large-caliber cannon mounted on  a fully traversing turret. This can be   capable of firing a variety of ammunition  types, increasing the gun’s effectiveness   against hard targets like enemy tanks, soft  targets like enemy unarmored vehicles or infantry   and anything else a tank might reasonably  need to fire upon. Within interstellar armies,   this might be a railgun, or a giant laser,  some sort of plasma accelerator, or who knows.  

But whatever it is, I’d expect that tanks might  be given special ammunition or their lasers   charged in a specific way, so that they have the  capability to inflict more damage against shields,   low flying starships, mechanized walkers and  whatever else. If it exists and is a threat,   there is almost certainly some sort of  specialized ammunition intended to deal with it.   Making sure the tank is big enough  to house all that ammunition,   is another consideration  in the firepower category. While a single cannon is the most popularly  used tank armament in our own world,   other options exist. Autocannons are  the 2nd most popular, trading caliber   size for firing speed and ammunition  count. In most cases, but not always,   you would expect guns like these to be less  effective against heavily armoured targets,   but more so against infantry, lighter  vehicles and even aircraft. Again, the  

interstellar equivalent to this could be anything,  pulse phasers, tachyon shredders, whatever. Variations in a tank’s armament however, is where  we again slide into the debate of what constitutes   a tank. Give a vehicle a large enough gun, and  you might end up with what some would consider   a self-propelled artillery piece, optimize  it towards shooting down helicopters,   aerospace craft or starships, you might  have a self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon. But there is one specific type of armament  that I don’t think should ever be on a tank,   and this leads us to Tangent #2. As mentioned, pretty much every successful tank  design has been armed with a single cannon.   So if one cannon is good, having two  cannons has gotta be even better right,   maybe even twice as good? Well, I don’t think  so. This has something that’s been tried multiple  

times across our own history and the results  have never made such a design worthwhile. You have to start by asking, what problem  is a dual gun tank meant to solve?   It’s only major advantage that I can think of,  would be that it can fire two shots at once. But   if you’re looking to increase the tank’s rate of  fire, an autocannon or some similar kind of weapon   seems like a better option. If you don’t want  to sacrifice the power of each individual round,   then investing in a better loading  system seems much more practical.

When you add a second cannon, you also need to  add another detection system, another method to   load it, and find a place for all the extra  ammunition that additional gun would need.   It also seems like it would be  harder to line up your shots as   the gun is no longer in the center  of the tank’s turret or chassis. Dual cannon systems only make sense if you're  trying to spray a large area with fire,   which is why you do find this type  of armament on anti-air vehicles   When dealing with enemy tanks  though, precision is what's required. Now all that said, it’s perfectly possible some  kind of weapons technology might exist in some   alternate reality to make this arrangement more  pacticle, but for the most part, stick to one gun.

But a tank's offensive power is also based on  the systems in place to make sure it can actually   acquire the enemy. There are again many elements  to this, ranging from the sensors that identify   the enemy, to the stabilization methods that  ensure a tank’s cannon remains fixated on that   target, regardless of what the rest of the vehicle  is doing. This to me is one of the ways in which   tanks seem superior to mechanized walkers. When  you compare the videos of tanks driving around  

with pints of beer resting comfortably  on their guns, to Imperial ATATs or the   BattleMechs of the Inner Sphere, well  the latter always comes off a bit clunky. So between Mobility, Protection and Firepower, you  have the three main characteristics of any tank.   Improvements in one of those areas, will  likely come at the expense of the other two.   But, it’s important to remember that  many other factors will impact the   overall success of any tank design and  these are often much harder to measure. Other secondary characteristics  include things like: Ease of Training: How long does it take  for a novice crew to become proficient.

Crew Comfort: how long can the tank be  operated before its crew needs a break. Reliability: How often does the tank  break down while in regular use. Ease of Maintenance & Repair: How much effort and  time is required to keep the vehicle operational? Consumption: How long can the tank be  in operation before it needs a resupply,   either of fuel or ammunition. Cost: How much money or  time does it take to build? There’s a whole lot more secondary  characteristics like these, but the point is;   It’s possible to end up with a tank that scores a  perfect 10 in mobility, protection and firepower,   only for nobody to want to crew the thing because  it’s interior is too loud and hot and it takes   forever to figure out how to drive it. You might  also find that these Secondary Characteristics can   directly affect Primary characteristics. Your tank  might have phenomenal mobility, but if it breaks  

down all the time, it’s not going to get very far  no matter how fast its top speed. Likewise, you   can have the best gun in the galaxy, but maybe the  tank is only big enough to fit a couple rounds. But, that aside, pretty much every tank in  history has been designed with those three   main characteristics in mind, and hopefully enough  attention given to those secondary characteristics   so as to make the vehicle practical. With an ever  increasing number of designs, has come the desire   and need to classify those designs into various  tank types. Here we run into a bit of a problem. Many different classification systems have  been used since the introduction of the tank   and these have evolved and changed both  across history and between nations. Some   countries classified their tanks based on their  weight, others on their battlefield role. There  

is unfortunately no universal classification  system that works across all eras and nations.   What might be called a “cruiser tank” in  one army, would be designated a “light”   or “medium tank” in another, even if  the designs were identical. Likewise   the requirements for what constitutes a light,  medium, or h eavy tank have changed over time.

So when we talk about the  different types of tanks,   it’s important to remember that  these designations… well there kinda, PoC Yeah, what he said. So we’ll do our best to provide a visual  representation of how each type of tank   is balanced between those three primary  characteristics, mobility, protection   and firepower, but even within the same tank  class, these attributes can vary wildly. We’ll   be starting with the modern main battle tank,  before moving into various kinds of historical   designations as determined both by weight and  battlefield role. We’ll include a few examples   of vehicle types that are arguably not tanks at  all, and some others that will assuredly piss off   the tank pursuits out there. But hey, better  to cast the net too wide than too narrow right? The concept of a main battle tank or MBT,  is in our world at least, the most modern   classification we’ll be discussing. Across  history, the number of tank types in use  

has expanded and contracted with evolving  technologies and shifting doctrines.   Since the middle of the Cold War into the modern  era, the MBT has successfully replaced a number of   more specialized tank types to become the  most predominant class in service today. The idea behind them is pretty simple, a design  that balances evenly between speed, protection and   firepower. The oversimplified role of an MBT  would be as a jack-of-all trades. Through   advances in suspension systems, lightweight  composite armor and other technologies,   it has the firepower of what was  historically designated a super-heavy tank,   the armor of a heavy tank, the mobility of a  light tank with the weight of a medium tank.   It makes sense that this kind of design has  replaced various others, with the technical   sophistication of tanks increasing over time.  Why maintain numerous distinct production lines   when you can achieve the same battlefield  results with just one? It seems to me that   for 90% of interstellar armies, the Main Battle  Tank is what you would see in service most often.

Battle Order here. Just a quick interjection, Main  Battle Tanks aren’t actually an even weighting   of technical characteristics. They are simply the  main tank used by an army, and not defined by any   specific technical detail. As was said, the reason  modern main battle tanks are the way they are   now is because technology got to the point where  one tank could do the traditional jobs of light,   medium, and heavy tanks. However, there are  different design philosophies that make it   hard to pin down a technically derived definition.  For example, the Germans and French of the early   Cold War generally gave their MBTs less armor  to afford greater mobility because during an   offensive maneuver war, when protecting against  artillery shrapnel is often enough. The Americans  

and British meanwhile opted for heavier armor  with a tradeoff in mobility, as they foresaw less   aggressive operations against the Soviets that  would require being able to take direct hits. You also have to consider that some countries  operate multiple MBTs in different types of   units. For example, countries like Russia or  South Korea operate older tanks in infantry   units for direct fire support while they keep  their newest tanks in their premiere armor units.

Ultimately, designations are relative and what  your MBT is all depends on the threat. If the   threat is such that a traditionally light tank  can take the hits and dish the damage you need,   using it as your main tank is perfectly fine. For  example, the Stuart light tank was mainly used   for reconnaissance and screening in Europe, and  probably couldn’t have been America’s main tank   due to the armor and anti-tank threat. However,  in the Pacific, there were plenty of situations   where the Stuart could function as the main tank.  Afterall, if the enemy really only had small arms   to counter them, a light tank protected  against rifle fire was actually capable   of closing with and destroying them. Further, in  restricted terrain, like jungle or a wooded area,   light tanks could actually provide benefits  in maneuverability compared to larger options.

Remember, designing a tank force  is really all about addressing the   circumstances you are likely to find  yourself in within the limitations of   your resources. You are right though, most tanks  will likely be main battle tanks in the future,   but being most of the tank force is sort of  what makes main battle tanks main battle tanks. Damn, Battle Order comes in outta nowhere to  take me to class. But he’s absolutely right,   any of the tanks we’ll go over in this video  could potentially fulfill the role of an MBT   depending on the battlefield they find  themselves within. And even traditional MBTs  

might not all be an equal balance of those  three characteristics. But with that said... The type 61 tank in service with the Earth  Federation would be a good example of an   MBT. It’s the main tank fielded by Federation  forces and it can fulfill a multitude of roles.   Design wise, I don’t think the dual cannons  are necessary, and it's maybe a bit big,   but overall, it’s a pretty effective design  at least to my largely untrained eye. But before technology made the MBT possible,  armies utilized many different types of tanks.

The Light Tank is one of the few variants  that has been present across history,   but also remains viable. Originally, these tanks  emphasized speed and were intended to harass and   outmaneuver larger vehicles. They could perform  screening actions ahead of a heavier armoured   formation, conduct reconnaissance, artillery  observation and participate in landing operations. In the modern era, many of these roles  have shifted to other battlefield elements,   but the viability of the light tank within  airborne or amphibious landings makes it uniquely   suited towards interstellar armies. If your is  fighting a relatively low-intensity insurgency   across a number of worlds, lugging around MBTs  might be inefficient and cost prohibitive.  

A dedicated light tank might be better suited  towards this kind of expeditionary warfare. The Scorpion Tank utilized by the Brotherhood  of Nod would be a good example of a light   tank. While its design seems impractical  by modern standards, it has a smaller gun,   high speed and its light weight allows it to be  rapidly redeployed. It’s not meant to engage the   heaviest vehicles used by Nod’s opponents,  relying instead on other heavier vehicles. The medium tank is perhaps one of the most  ill-defined tank types encompassing a wide   variety of vehicles. While the name suggests  some sort of weight distinction, medium tanks  

were routinely classified by their battlefield  role. Initially, this was similar to that of a   light tank, prioritizing speed and exploiting  the breakthroughs made by heavier tanks,   but this later evolved to instead focus  on mobility, protection and firepower,   if not exactly equally, at least in  a way that was bit more balanced.   For this reason, medium tanks almost entirely  evolved or were replaced by Main Battle Tanks. It’s hard to see how medium tanks would fit into  an interstellar army, a standard main battle tank   makes a lot more sense. But, if society suffered  through some kind of tark age of technology   resulting in an amalgamation of  different military theories and doctrines   under the command of an ignorant faith-based  regime, maybe the concept would return.

It should be no surprise then that the Leman  Russ would be a good example of a medium tank in   interstellar use. It is neither the largest  nor most advanced tank in service within   the Imperium of Man, yet it’s able  to be produced in great numbers and   routinely modified to fit a number of more  specialized roles. Most importantly however,   it serves alongside both lighter and heavier  vehicles, indicating its status as a medium tank.

This leads us to heavy tanks. As the name  suggests, these vehicles weighed more than   Light or Medium Tanks and sacrificed mobility  and maneuverability for better protection   and equal or superior firepower. Heavy  tanks were necessary in both world wars,   first for surviving artillery and anti-tank guns  while crossing trench-lines or no man’s land,   and then for anti-tank warfare  once that became more common.  

The lack of mobility ended up being a  major weakness though, as heavy tanks   had a difficult time getting to the positions  where they could excel in their intended role.   More often they were used as mobile pillboxes or  as focal points in a wider defensive position. It would be hard to justify  using heavy tanks within   an interstellar army. Even if technology  and doctrine made the basic concept viable,   I’d imagine hauling these enormous slow vehicles  around the galaxy would be a giant waste. By the  

time they lumbered off their transports, and were  ferried to the battlefield, the war might be over. But, the Tumbril Nova is a good example of a heavy  tank within an interstellar army. It is enormous,   heavy, and extremely resilient to damage. It also  seems to have the same disadvantages inherent to  

its class, with even dedicated transports only  able to carry a couple of the vehicles at a time. I’ve spoken at great length before about how I  don’t particularly find the Nova to be a good   design, but in a video like this one,  where critiquing the individual designs   isn’t really the point it  seems unfair for me to repeat   all those same critiques again.  So I’ll have someone else do it. Thanks Spookston! If you’d like  to see the UNSC’s Scorpion,   the tanks of the Imperium of Man and  many other given that same treatment,   be sure to check out Spookston’s  Youtube channel. Okay, back to it. Deficiencies in the design aside, the Nova  seems to be a heavy tank by the standards of   the Cold War, mostly dedicated to destroying  other tanks. We can contrast this with a  

different heavy tank design that seems to have  been based more on the World One War standard. The Imperium of Man classifies the  Baneblade as a super-heavy tank,   and we’ll get to those next, but when you compare  it to some of the absolutely enormous vehicles it   serves alongside, the Baneblade is comparatively  small. So for our purposes today we’ll consider it   a heavy tank. The point is, rather than a single  large caliber cannon, the Baneblade’s armament   is composed of up to a dozen separate  guns, each suited towards enemy armor,   fortification or infantry. With a crew of ten  people, it’s more akin to a moving fortress.   The Baneblade, at least doctrinally, would not  have been out of place in 1919 as a heavy tank.

So that takes us to Super-Heavy tanks. Ostensibly,  this refers to any tanks suitably heavier than a   heavy tank, but where exactly that line is hard to  define. In our own world, I almost think it’s more   appropriate to classify Super-Heavy tanks based  on their deficiencies, as every single design   that fits that type has either been cancelled,  or wildly impractical. My definition would be   when a heavy tank becomes too big to move under  its own power, it is now a Super-Heavy tank. For all the same reasons that a heavy tank  would be an inefficient design type within   an interstellar army, a super-heavy  tank would be even less desirable.   In my opinion, if the nation in question is  capable of constructing starships big enough to   efficiently transport these gigantic vehicles into  a variety of warzones across interstellar space,   it would likely also be capable  of using orbital bombardment   or some other method to overcome the situations  for which these super-heavy tanks were designed.

As impractical as I might find them, the  Bolo Tanks used by the Concordiat of Man   would be a good example of a super-heavy tank.   I don’t understand how they can move, but these  AI guided vehicles are absolutely enormous,   bristling with weapons and exemplify  the old concept of a “landship”. So we move now from tank types more  or less classified by their weight,   to those classified by their intended role.   As previously mentioned, there is a lot  of overlap between these two systems. We’ll start with the “Cruiser Tank”. In  a lot of cases, these are very similar   to light or medium tanks, comparatively  small and fast at the expense of armor.  

The distinction between light, medium and  cruiser tanks is often subtle and sometimes   arbitrary. But where light tanks were generally  designed to conduct scouting and screening,   cruiser tanks were intended to exploit  breakthroughs in the enemy’s line and   directly engage other armoured units. This brings  it more in line with the concept of a medium tank. Now we’ll run into some issues trying to apply  historical designations like the Cruiser Tank   to futuristic vehicles, so your mileage might  vary on some of my examples from here on out.   That said, I think a strong case can be  made that the M-44 Hammerhead in service   with the Systems Alliance is a good example of  a cruiser tank. It’s equipped with solid-fuel  

rocket thrusters in place of wheels or  tracks allowing it to move at great speeds,   but its single forward facing gun is evidence  that the hammerhead was intended to engage   armored targets. Now the System Alliance itself  classifies this as an infantry fighting vehicle,   but as we’ll get into later on,  I don’t think this quite fits. Using the Hammerhead as an example, we can also  maybe take some inspiration on how the cruiser   tank concept might fit into an interstellar army.  Normally I’d say the Cruiser Tank concept is  

redundant next to medium or main battle tanks, but  this is where different technologies could make it   more distinct. Earlier than I said that hovertanks  should server alongside tracked vehicles? Well,   maybe the tracked vehicles can be classified  as MBTs, while the hovertanks use the term   Cruiser tanks. It still fits its historical  role, but in a way that’s now distinct. But next, let's get into the Infantry Tank. If  the cruiser tank is basically a medium tank, than   the infantry tank is pretty much a heavy tank. It  was designed to support the advance of infantry,   and as such, wasn’t required to move much faster  than walking or running speed. They were equipped   with additional armor, but not necessarily more  firepower. Unlike heavy tanks, infantry tanks  

weren’t specifically designed to engage enemy  armor, at least that wasn’t their primary role.   They were instead intended to support infantry  in creating a breakthrough. As such, they were   often equipped with similar sized  guns to medium or even light tanks. The Annihilator variant of the Malcador Heavy  tank again in service with the Imperium of Man,   is a fairly accurate example of an infantry tank,  even if it’s not directly designated as such.   It’s primary armament, a demolisher cannon,  is better suited towards enemy infantry   and fortifications, and while its secondary  armament could be used against armoured targets,   it’s too slow and large to effectively  perform the role of a tank hunter.

So far, each class we’ve talked about are about  as universally recognized as tanks as you can get.   But now we start moving into more controversial  territory, are the following vehicles tanks or   do they fit into the border category  of “armoured fighting vehicle”. That   might vary from nation to nation and era to  era, so I’m not going to pass judgements. A tank destroyer, tank hunter, tank  killer, or self-propelled anti-tank gun,   is specifically designed to engage and destroy  enemy armoured vehicles. In most cases they lack  

the operational mobility and tactical flexibility  of tanks, sacrificing both in favor of firepower.   Historical examples are usually turretless, giving  the tank destroyer both a lower silhouette and   the ability to house a larger gun. More modern  examples have replaced their tracks with wheels   and discarded heavy guns in favor of missile  systems, although cannons have made something   of a comeback as the demand for lower  cost anti-tank solutions has increased.

Tank destroyers are another type of vehicle  that I think would make a lot of sense within   an interstellar army. If the enemy possesses  a large number of heavily armoured units,   and you don’t have the means to  transport MBTs or main battle tanks,   smaller, cheaper tank destroyers  might be able to do the same job. Now, while its design is unlike any kind of tank  destroyer in our world, the IG-227 Hailfire Class,   is used by the Confederacy of Independent  Systems in nearly an identical role.  

It doesn’t seem particularly durable,  but its high speed and armament   made it an excellent counter to the  heavier walkers deployed by the Republic. Next on our list are self-propelled  anti-aircraft weapons   and not many people would argue this is a tank  at all. This should be pretty self explanatory;   an anti-aircraft system, usually a  couple rapid firing cannons or missiles,   are mounted on a tank-like chassis. They are  intended to operate in concert or in the same   environments as other armoured vehicles, so  their design is subsequently very similar.

Anti-air vehicles might not make a ton of sense  within an invading interstellar army, they’d   likely be redundant with fleet carriers in orbit  or in the atmosphere. But for a defending force I   can definitely see their use. Fixed anti-aircraft  weapons would likely not last too long before they   were targeted by orbital bombardments so having a  mobile platform seems to make sense. If these are  

suitably armed to engage enemy starships, not just  fighters or bombers, they could be a huge asset. While the exact designation of  this vehicle remains unknown,   the Helghast employed a very good example  of a self-propelled anti-air weapon.   It was based on the standard Helghast hover  APC chassis, but with an additional quad   barreled cannon mounted atop a turret and  what seemed to be anti-aircraft missiles.

Next on our list of vehicles we  have Self-Propelled Artillery.   Again, in fairness, despite some similarities,  these really aren’t tanks although they   do seem to be mistaken for them quite a bit.  Self-Propelled artillery has much lighter armor,   usually only resistant to small arms fire or  the shrapnel from counter-battery fire, but they   feature a much larger and longer ranged armament,  meant for indirect fire. That is, their targets   are often not within visual range. Where these  vehicles have an advantage over towed artillery,   is that they’re able to shoot and scoot, limiting  their risk of being hit but counter-fire.  

In certain situations they might be used for  direct fire support, but only in emergency   situations and as a last resort. So if for  example you had a convoy of vehicles heading   into enemy territory, you would generally not  want self-propelled artillery to be in the front. As with Self-Propelled anti-aircraft weapons,  I’d imagine this sort of vehicle would only be   useful to the defender. A starship parked in  orbit could likely achieve the same results   without the added logistics of deploying a  specialized vehicle to the surface of a planet.

Battle Order here again. So I actually  disagree with my colleague on this point.   A starship would be a formidable fire  support capability, no doubt about that,   but that doesn’t make artillery at lower echelons  useless. Otherwise, in the 21st century we just   would have had corps-level ballistic missiles and  strategic bombers and nothing lower than that. Putting artillery in the hands of lower commanders  allows for more responsive fires and guarantees   that they will have fire support of some kind.  If a starship is providing general support for   a large area, what if they are busy supporting  another unit? What if the process of getting   approval for orbital bombardment adds precious  minutes to actually getting an effect on the   ground? What if friendly soldiers are too close to  the enemy to call in massively powerful starship   fires? If a brigade commander for  example has their own artillery,   they will always be able to call  on it and might get faster results. To make an analogy, if you have a nail that can   be driven in with your ballpeen hammer  and you need it done within 30 seconds,   there’s no sense asking your friend to use  their jackhammer to do it in 15 minutes.

Additionally, smaller artillery pieces can provide  you better effects for certain missions. Sure,   a starship turbolaser can probably glass  10 grid squares at once. But if you just   need to suppress a target, hide movement  with smoke, or just probe a position,   lighter ground-launched precision artillery  of the future would probably be the move. For this reason, self-propelled artillery ranging   from mortar carriers at lower levels  to self-propelled guns and precision   missile artillery at the brigade, division  and corps levels is my recommendation.

Once again, Battle Order makes a good point. As  with every armored fighting vehicle we’ve gone   over, there is always the chance that the benefits  of including them within an interstellar army   will outweigh whatever disadvantages  they might have. It all depends on what   situation you find yourself within and  what capabilities your forces possess. The siege tanks used by the Terran Dominion are  not a perfect example of self-propelled artillery,   but they’re pretty close. In this instance,  the design can perform all the functions   of a heavy tank, but then reconfigure  itself to provide longer ranged support.  

While this concept is intriguing, I do  have to wonder how effective it would be.   Each of these configurations is designed towards  a completely different role, so the siege tank   is likely not quite as good at either as  two specialized vehicles might have been. Self propelled artillery is unusually  rare within interstellar armies,   the only other example I can think of is the  aptly named Self-Propelled Heavy Artillery   used by the Grand Army of the Republic. Now  technically this is actually a walker, which I   did swear I wasn’t going to include in this video,  but I want to go on another brief tangent here. The main purpose of artillery, as discussed,  is to provide indirect fire. But what’s unusual   about the Republic SPHA is that it fires a direct  beam of energy. This energy doesn’t seem to arc or  

curve in any way, meaning that this  piece of artillery requires a direct   line of sight to whatever it’s trying  to hit. And that beam of energy also   very clearly pinpoints exactly where  the artillery walker is positioned,   leaving it susceptible to counter-battery fire. It  makes me think this weapon was designed more so to   hit starships in orbit, as its otherwise unable  to fulfill the traditional role of artillery. While self-propelled artillery is designed  to most often provide indirect fire,   Assault guns are the opposite. They are intended  to follow friendly infantry and knock out enemy   fortifications or enemy infantry, sometimes at  very close range. They might have significantly  

weaker armor compared to a traditional  tank, but are usually a bit more mobile. Assault guns have widely fallen out of use as  main battle tanks ended up being able to perform   this same role. What’s interesting  however, is that in our own world,   the role of main battle tanks are increasingly  resembling that of assault guns. In battling   insurgencies in the Middle East, it is rare  that tanks find themselves engaging enemy armor,   but rather clearing out strongpoints and  irregular infantry. MBTs seem to be able   to fufill this use well enough, but maybe a  dedicated design might be even more efficient. So again, while this design might not be useful  in every interstellar army, when going up against   an insurgency of some kind where the enemy doesn’t  have access to armor, this type might be valuable.

The Vindicator tanks used by the Space  Marines are a great example of an assault gun.   They are intended to accompany infantry, and  clear our fortification with their heavy,   forward mounted gun. It’s pretty  much a perfect representation. This leaves us with the last armoured vehicle on  our list, the Infantry Fighting Vehicle or IFV.  

These share a lot of similarities with armoured  personnel carriers, they’re designed to carry   infantry and deliver them into combat. But  where an APC would lthen leave the combat   area after deploying its troops, and IFV stays  with the squad, providing direct fire support   or advances independently towards its objective.  For this reason, they have heavier armaments and   more protection than APCs, at the cost of how many  troops they can carry. Compared to main battle  

tanks however, they are equally mobile, allowing  infantry to keep up with an armoured advance. This IFV concept has been very popular in our  modern world as armies often need a less expensive   vehicle with heavier firepower, and folding in the  ability to carry infantry, makes a lot of sense.   And I think they’d make a ton of sense  within an interstellar army as well.   Keeping your force mobile when fighting over a   battlefield that might be the size of a  planet would be an absolute necessity. The M577 is technically classified by the  United States Colonial Marines as an APC,   but I think it fits the definition  of an infantry fighting vehicle   pretty well. I say this because unlike most APCs,   the M577 has a heavy armament and seems more than  capable of hanging around to provide fire support.

And remember when I said earlier that the M44  Hammerhead wasn’t a great example of an IFV?   Well it definitely has a large  cannon, but it doesn’t seem to   have the ability to carry any troops, just  a few crew. So that’s my rationale there. So with that, we’ve covered most  major tank types and even some   armoured fighting vehicles that probably  aren’t tanks at all. I have to admit,   including Self Propelled Artillery but then  drawing the line at infantry fighting vehicles   feels kinda arbitrary. We could have gone  into flame tanks, takettes, armoured cars,   reconnaissance vehicles, mortar carriers,  armoured trains, tank classifications are so   nebulous and always evolving that we probably  could have kept going for another 50 minutes. Of course, knowing the different types of tanks  is only part of building your interstellar   armoured force. Doctrine is equally important. And  rather than risk embarrassing myself yet again,  

let’s go back to Battle Order so  is clearly the expert we need. So now that my colleague has given you an overview  of some types of armored fighting vehicles,   how do you actually integrate these  into your army? You can min-max your   technical performance all you want and shell out  billions for the newest in interstellar tanks,   but it can all be squandered if  you don’t know how to employ them. The three main ways you can employ  tanks are as infantry support,   aggressive maneuver forces, or reconnaissance. First, where tanks started and where I see them  going, the tank as infantry support. In essence,   this is the tank as an assault gun, but with added  capabilities to keep relatively lightly protected   infantry in the fight. This is essentially  how tanks were used during World War I,  

protected self-propelled direct fire artillery  with cross-country mobility. However,   you really don’t have to be limited to interwar  British ideas of the “infantry tank” to pull it   off. For your interstellar army, you can justify  many different kinds of vehicles to fill the role,   from light and heavy tanks, to  main battle tanks or assault guns. For example, the British during World War  II would attach Tank Brigades equipped with   Churchill infantry tanks, which were basically  just heavy tanks with British flavor, to infantry   units to provide intimate support. However, the  Americans during the same period did something   pretty similar but with Sherman medium tanks.  In the 20th and 21st Centuries, the Russians and  

Soviets before them have put a main battle tank  battalion in their Motorized Rifle formations to   do basically the same thing; support infantry  with direct fire, provide intimate support and   enable infantry to maneuver in the face of  enemy fire. And the Japanese put Type 16   wheeled light tanks in their rapid deployment  infantry regiments, because they wanted a direct   fire, close combat capability that can also be  moved by their relatively small airlifters. If   you aren’t going up against a mechanized force,  or have relatively few resources and a more   infantry heavy army, you’ll probably be using  tanks mostly in support of other forces. In terms of unit organization, you  can really handle it in a lot of ways.   Infantry support tank units can be independent  so you can prioritize them to where they’re   needed. This was pretty much the World War  II infantry support tank doctrine for the   majority of countries, whether they used heavy  breakthrough tanks or medium tanks for the job.  

Or you can make them organic to infantry units,  so they always have them and have more time to   train together. This makes all of your infantry  units more resilient and powerful, but also means   you’re less capable of concentrating  tank forces for offensive operations. In terms of amounts, different countries  have done different things. For example,   the Russians typically have one tank battalion  per infantry brigade. That’s about 41 tanks  

supporting about 81 infantry squads for those  watching at home. Meanwhile, the South Koreans   have one tank brigade with between 70 and 105  main battle tanks supporting each area defense   corps. Corps can vary wildly in size, as they’re  mainly administrative headquarters, but we can   guesstimate them as being about 20, to 40,000  people. In the Russian and South Korean cases,   these are usually older main battle tanks,  while the Canadians disperse their tanks in   mechanized infantry units because they don’t have  the need or money to create dedicated tank units. Another alternative to infantry support tanks is  the assault gun, which are typically less-well   protected and provide less intimate direct fire  support to infantry. Unlike tanks, they can’t   really close with the enemy, so they’re more about  shooting from an overwatch position while infantry   close in. They can be used to take the burden  of infantry support off your main battle tanks,  

which you can prioritize for more aggressive  action. Assault gun roles, which usually involve   anti-personnel and anti-structure work, really  don’t require your best tank gun to be effective.   Even a 90mm cannon or a smaller autocannon could  do the job; thus you’re not wasting capability by   putting a very capable tank in the role. You  can integrate other things, like anti-tank   guided missile carriers, to take on enemy tanks  when needed. Further, assault guns can be more  

strategically and operationally mobile than tanks,  making them less of a burden for infantry units. One prominent example of assault  guns is in the Chinese practice,   whose medium and amphibious combined arms  battalions have an Assault Vehicle Company   equipped with either tracked ZTD-5  or wheeled ZTL-11 assault guns. But,   perhaps more controversially, infantry fighting  vehicles functionally fit an assault gun role   within the mechanized infantry, since  their autocannons or even low-pressure   gun-launchers like on the BMP-3 provide  effective direct fire support for infantry. The second major type of tank application is as  aggressive maneuver forces. Using their mobility,   firepower, and protection, tanks can be used  to conduct their own combined arms maneuvers,   driving deep into enemy territory or  defeating enemy assaults through direct   fires and counterattack. In modern times, the main  battle tank is typically the core of such units. I would say if you’re going to have  a dedicated tank maneuver force,   the units should be at least half tank.  If you have more infantry than tanks,  

then I’d classify it as mechanized  personally rather than a tank unit. However,   it should also be noted that tank forces need  infantry support to hold ground and screen them   when moving through complex terrain, so you don’t  want to go pure tank. Whether that means you have   infantry in the tank units all the time or  you attach them from outside is up to you. One example is the combined arms battalion, which  has a mix of tanks and mechanized infantry. The   Chinese and Swedes for example do a half-and-half  mix of 2 tank companies and 2 infantry companies.  

Meanwhile, the Americans have either 2 tank  and 1 infantry company, or the reverse. Thus,   each battalion can swap platoons between  companies to create combined arms teams. Another method is making your brigades combined  arms. For example, the Russian Tank Brigade has   3 tank battalions and 1 infantry battalion,  with that infantry battalion being split   up to support the tanks. This would entail  creating Battalion Tactical Groups, usually 1   tank battalion reinforced with a motorized rifle  company, artillery, air defense, and other support   to create a combined arms unit. In South Korea,  brigades subordinate to their offensively-minded  

Mobile Divisions are similar, but much more  varied. Each of their brigades typically   consist of 3 battalions, and these can be pretty  much any mix of tanks and mechanized infantry. Overall, combined arms units have an advantage  in that different types of units get the chance   to train together, form intimate relationships  and gain competence in combined arms operations.   You can still grow proficiency in combined arms  even if units aren’t organically combined arms,   but they might not have as much experience  in it or build as close relationships.

The third and last niche I want to mention is  tanks as reconnaissance and security elements.   Your recce and screening units will typically  operate on the bleeding edge of your armored unit,   both to observe the enemy force and provide  early warning so the enemy’s recce doesn’t   get the jump on you. Having tanks here can  be beneficial as being able to defeat armor   in the enemy’s advanced guard or recce element  without outside support is very useful. Further,  

sometimes attacking the enemy is necessary to  collect information, so offensive capabilities   are also necessary for reconnaissance. If  you don’t put tanks in the recon units,   you might need to detail tanks from your maneuver  forces to reinforce them, which isn’t ideal. Light tanks were traditionally used for  reconnaissance purposes, so that’s an obvious   option. You can also use main battle tanks for  the task. For example, US Army armored brigade   combat teams have a tank company with the  M1A2 Abrams. Assault guns are also an option,   but I would stay clear of a dedicated heavy  tank in your recce unit for obvious reasons.   Even if you don’t put tanks in there, in some  cases dedicated recon vehicles or infantry   fighting vehicles can functionally act as light  tanks depending on the circumstance. For example,  

the M3 Bradley, an infantry fighting vehicle,  displayed many of the characteristics of a light   tank during the Battle of 73 Easting, using their  TOW missiles for anti-tank work and autocannons   for more assault gun-type fires. So long as you  put something in there that can effectively engage   and defeat enemy infantry and armor, you have a  recce capability that can fight for information. I must give special thanks to my colleague over at  Battle Order for lending us their expertise here.   If you’re not already familiar with them,  Battle Order does absolutely phenomenal work   on their YouTube channel discussing real  life military units in a way that’s clear   and accessible. If you want to know how  a modern Russian motor rifle company is   organized, what the helmet markings  of paratroopers on D-Day all meant,   or even just what is a platoon, there  is no better resource than Battle Order. 

So, going by the three general uses of  armored formations, infantry support,   maneuver warfare and reconnaissance, are  there any lessons we can apply to interstellar   armies? Well, even though they don’t make  extensive use of tanks, the Galactic Empire   certainly seems to rely pretty much exclusively on  that infantry support doctrine. This makes sense   in a battlefield like Jedha City where you have  hidden insurgents amongst the civilian population.   Stormtroopers surely benefited from the fire  support offered by Imperial tanks. But on a   battlefield like Hoth, Imperial doctrine was  entirely inappropriate for the situation.

To defeat an elusive irregular force like the  Rebel Alliance, Imperial forces needed a means to   cut off their retreat. If the Empire had abandoned  its AT-ATs and embraced maneuver warfare,   tank formations might have been able to sweep  through the Rebel lines and encircle their   defensive formations. Instead, they relied  again on that infantry support doctrine,   slowly advancing and giving the Rebels ample  time to withdrawal. If the Alliance had   deeply entrenched positions stretching across  dozens of miles, this might have made sense,   but there was no reason the Empire needed to be so  cautious when engaging such a lightly armed force.

The military forces of the Terran  Federation could have made great use   of all three of those armoured doctrines, but  on a battlefield likes Klendathu and elsewhere,   using armor in an infantry support role would  have made a lot of sense. While sweeping armoured   advances would have no doubt killed a lot of  bugs, against such a numerically superior foe, the   risk of these elements being cut off from support  elements and overwhelmed is significantly higher. A slow methodical advance in which  counter-attacks can be repulsed by   intense fire support seems the best strategy, and  here tanks could have made all the difference.

Now as we reach the end of our guide,  we come to the most important part,   how do you name your different tank designs?  Unfortunately, unlike naval vessels,   armoured vehicles seem to lack the same  sense of tradition when it comes to naming   conventions. Most nations use an alphanumeric  designation, sometimes followed by a nickname,   either official or unofficial. The American  military typically names their tanks after   army generals, the British seem to like words  that start with the letter C for some reason,   and the Germans really love wild cats. I have  no idea what the Russians are doing. A lot of   their self-propelled artillery is named after  flowers, anti-air vehicles are named after rivers,   and their main battle tanks are called  things like “Slin

2021-07-24 03:40

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