View Full Version : Only Real Armor Can Help Keep Our Troops Safe

05-20-04, 07:25 AM

Only Real Armor Can Help Keep Our Troops Safe

By Ralf W. Zimmermann

While Americaís media focus shifted rapidly to the deplorable conduct of the sad sacks who ran our military prisons in Iraq, our combat and support troops continue to battle uprisings and roadside explosives at a steep price in blood and mutilated limbs.

Again and again, the newscasts have addressed the need for simple protective gear for the troops. These improvements include improved body armor, splinter goggles, better fitting helmets, radio frequency jammers, and up-armored/up-gunned Humvees. To cover their butts, the slick Pentagon briefers have made promises after promises Ė Santa would soon deliver the life-saving gear.

But waiting for next Christmas isnít good enough for many hard-pressed grunts who must respond to ambushes in the three-dimensional jungles of Iraqís dangerous cities. They canít wait for super-Hummers and other fancy inventions to arrive in the distant future.

What they need is a variety of hard-hitting American armored vehicles Ė now!

But overwhelming numbers of armored combat vehicles arenít what our Pentagon Peacekeeping Department planned for after the initial Blitzkrieg success last year.

With Iraq close to sinking into all-out civil war, Bradleys, Strykers and a few M1-series, American-made ďKing Tigers,Ē ought to be saturating the streets of the most dangerous cities. And believe me, there is nothing more intimidating than hearing the rumble of heavy tracks and the sharp bark of the cannon and on-board weaponry to put the fear of god or Allah into anyone planning some sneaky stuff against our troops.

Quite a few Army tank experts have recently assured me that Stryker, the Armyís interim armored vehicle, is on its way to make things better. I say that Stryker is a nice armored vehicle and has its place in the arsenal. But I donít believe that Stryker will solve all our problems. Iraq isnít Kosovo and only a prudent mix of armor for specific tasks can do the job.

The Bradley, believe or not, is the second-best tank in the world and most suited for duty in Iraq. Relatively fuel efficient, it carries two machine guns and a fine 25mm cannon that can do a trick on snipers and any other evildoer. The Bradís armor is sufficient to survive rocket-propelled grenades and other nasty surprises. The nice thing about the Brad is its maneuverability. Best of all, it carries grunts into the fight. And if you donít need infantry Ė good! The Brad can be stuffed to the gills with ammo, allowing it to spit fire for a very long time.

The Stryker, in my opinion, is a fine long-range patrol and reconnaissance vehicle and battle taxi. For my taste, it has too little armor for employment in cities and itís way too vulnerable to land mines, RPGs and heavy machine gun bullets. Strykerís other weakness is a miserable turn radius to extract itself from tight spots when too many tracers converge on your front slope. Compared to other light armored vehicles, actually featuring real automatic cannons and other potent guns, Stryker has no nasty punch, merely a remote Cal. 50 machine gun. That reduces it to just another wheeled battle taxi.

Even Strykerís derivative armored gun system is flawed. More difficult to transport, its main gun canít be depressed very well for close-in targets. Looking at supplemental firepower on a wheel platform, our Army should have examined a few French designs, such as AMX-10RC or something like the Renault VBC 90. Even better, we could have bought a track-mounted gun system.

So, if you really ask me, Stryker should mainly be employed in convoy protection and for fast reaction outside of major built-up areas. Given its vulnerabilities, it seems outrageous to buy over 2,000 of these wheeled Swiss Army Knives.

Although a bunker on tracks, our M1-series Panzers are logistics nightmares in low-intensity conflicts and austere operations areas. Yes, the heavy rides suck too much fuel and require too much maintenance. Although it packs the biggest punch and armored protection, itís best used in its current mode Ė as a back-up and break-through weapon against highly protected targets.

To better pacify Iraqís streets requires many more U.S. troops and a much more versatile and plentiful armored force. And while weíre mulling over the lessons from Iraq, it would be prudent to tell ole Santa to give the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions each a battalion of a real armored gun systems. No, not the wheeled kind but something with a real gun turret and tracks to put the fear of God into anyone opposing it.

DefenseWatch Senior Military Correspondent Lt. Col. Ralf W. Zimmermann, USA (Ret.) is a decorated Desert Storm veteran and former tank battalion commander. His recent novel, ďBrotherhood of Iron,Ē deals with the German soldier in World War II. It is directly available from www.iUniverse.com and through most major book dealers. Zimm can be reached at r6zimm@earthlink.net or via his website at www.home.earthlink.net/~r6zimm. © 2004 LandserUSA. Send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.