It is impossible to exagerrate the impact of Verdun upon the French Army in 1940. The general staff was made primarily of veterans of WWI, with then army commanders now commanding corps, battallion commanders now commanding divisions, and company commanders now in charge of battallions. The majority of these officers were fed through the meatgrinder at Verdun, but drew the wrong conclusion. In stark contrast to the German Verdun experience (for example Von Rundstedt who believed the attrition and frontal attacks were no way to win a war), Gamelin now supreme Allied commander still believed in the doctrine of the continuous front and fortification.
- The Nazi Party and their "State within a state"
- The key events and points which led to the rise of the Third Reich
- Some background - including the monarchy, Weimar Republic, influence of Junkers and Hindenburg. Also will touch on the myth and legend of Frederick the Great.
"I suspect (I have not studied the issue) that tank development since WWII has been based on both mission and the likely opponents. Smaller nations (except Israel) do not do tank development so they take what the market offers. And these procurement actions are not always based on good science, i.e., corruption and politics.I thought my response was lengthy enough to warrant a new post as a follow up rather than as a comment response. For the 2nd paragraph of the question I was forced to speak with a good friend of mine, a former M1A2 commander to find the answer.
So a question would be what is the likely outcome of both and individual encounter between an M-60 and a T-72, and larger battles. Is the M-60 necessarily second best? How would the M-60 units prevail?
I remember reading about the 1968 war in which Israeli tanks overpowered Egyptian(?) tanks because the Soviet-supplied hardware lacked air conditioning. I'm sure there were other factors, but the crew with the most on the ball has a great advantage. "
The Soviets have always adopted the principle of more and cheaper.. Even down to their steel sabot ammunition. We scoff at this in the U.S. but it has been the fundamental core doctrine for their armed forces since even before WWI. It led directly to the development of the A-10 Warthog (Satan’s Cross as the Russians call it) and the Apache. The Soviets during the Cold War had more tanks than we had infantry platoons.. Quite scary when you think about it.
What fits for the Soviets does not fit for smaller countries usually, because they field a very small army. Sweden is a good example, they went a completely different direction in tank design. One of their recently retired tanks (Stridsvagn 103)* is a fixed gun that has a breakthrough suspension that allows them to elevate the front of the tank (over snowbanks and what not). Because it is designed to fight in the snow and in large forests they didn’t feel like they needed a rotating turret. Put that in any other country and you have a possible disaster. The Israelis developed the Merkeva tank, which is an excellent tank but again it is designed for desert warfare. It is inadequate when placed in any other role.
M60 vs T-72
The T-72 has the advantage of a superior gun, superior penetration and superior range- the 125mm gun vs the M60’s 105mm. The T-72 also had superior armour protection, and a very low silhouette. The M60’s advantages were its fire control system, and rate of fire. But overall the T-72 is the superior tank and will be victorious in the majority of fights. The T-72 was really not of the same generation, and a better match for the M60 would be something around the T-64 series. The U.S. did not really leap ahead in tank design until the development of the M1 Abrams, of which the T-80 is essentially a copy (and which also doubled the price of the average Soviet tank). Since the T-80 the Soviets/Russians have made mostly cosmetic improvements on their tanks; Jane's Defense calls them "same whore, new lipstick".
When you are fighting satellite nations or countries that import the Soviet designs, one important consideration is that the Soviets designed the T-72 to fill a niche in what my friend the Abrams commander describes as a system of legos. The T-72 is designed to operate with ZSU-23s for low level air defense, followed by BMP2s carrying infantry, BRDM-4s for scouting with anti-tank missiles, and all followed up by the tracked MTLB with platoon sized detachments. In the air the Soviets field the SU-24 for air superiority and the SU-25 "Frogfoot" for close air support. Once you remove any piece of this system it starts to collapse, so importing nations not only have to possess all the equipment but train their soldiers in replicating the Soviet system.
David also asks how well the Russians have been able to maintain their level of training and readiness with this system. It is an irony of the post-communist era that the Russians have maintained one of the largest armies in the world - but they cannot really afford to send it anywhere. The war in Afghanistan was like our war in Vietnam, and had major impacts on the morale and thinking of the modern Russian military. Above all there is simply very little money available for improvements upon old equipment and expansions in training programs, and the former Soviet lego system has already become obsolete on the modern battlefield.
In WWII each army had subdivisions of tanks, usually into Infantry Support (normal tanks like the Sherman and Panzer IV), Tank Destroyers (Stug or M10 series) or Self Propelled Guns (Wespe, Priest). The first and the last groups are still very much alive in today's military but the role of tank destroyer has essentially dropped out. Why you ask?
It is not so much that gun design has changed - in fact it really hasn't changed much in the last hundred years. It is still a rifled barrel (or smoothbore in case of the Leopard and Abrams) that is designed to withstand a controlled explosion and hurl a projectile. They have only gotten bigger. But they are not much bigger than the larger anti-tank guns or artillery of the period; so what is the big difference?
The difference is the ammunition they fire. Towards the end of WWII the British especially began to experiment with something called sabot rounds, which are projectiles loaded into oversized shells and fired at hyper velocities. Discarding sabot involves a smaller projectile loaded inside the round, the shell of which strips away from the internal package as it leaves the barrel. You can think of it as wrapping up a pencil and shooting it out of a shotgun - the wrapping comes off but all that energy is still behind that pencil pushing it extremely fast.
The 17 pounder in particular was tested with sabot, which proved to be somewhat of a failure due to the fact it would literally just skip off the Panzer V Panther's armour. The early sabot rounds were very small and most importantly short. They later realized that the longer (lengthwise) a sabot round was the less likely it was to deflect off armour (this led to the development of what is known as the long rod penetrator).