U.S. Sending Tanks to Afghanistan for the First Time

This is interesting. According to the AP, the U.S. military is bringing heavy armor into the fight in Afghanistan for the first time ever:

Two senior defense officials say 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks and 115 additional Marines will be deployed next month.

While Abrams were used extensively in Iraq, the Afghan fight has often seen troops using lighter, nimbler vehicles capable of scrambling along the mountainous country’s notoriously primitive roads — more like paths — or using helicopters to travel quickly and bypass the danger from IEDs.

Now, as the Marines push harder into enemy territory, they’ll bring serious ground firepower with them:

The officials said Friday this is a first for the U.S. in the 9-year-old war, though Canadians and Danish troops have already used the huge, heavily armored combat vehicles in Afghanistan.

Officials say the tanks will help Marines keep insurgents away from key population areas and help troops move into insurgent safe havens. Officials say the tanks can bring extra protection and added firepower and help troops observe key routes where militants place roadside bombs.

This seems like yet another indication of how the fight is getting tougher and more intense over there.

— John Reed

  • Zmonster

    About time. We needed them there awhile ago.

  • Brian

    Narrow mountain passes and little to no IED resistance, those 15 aren’t coming home. Oh well, we’ll just buy some more, never mind the wastefull loss of life.

  • 0001

    Waste money, send in tanks.

  • William C.

    I have no doubt these will be very useful but that is still 14 C-17As flying in. After this conflict it seems like our transport aircraft are going to need some sort of overhaul.

  • Marvel

    They are using these in Helmand at first, and I doubt they will be sending them up into the mountains. That would not make sense. But in the southern plains, they’ll kick some bootay.

  • chaos0xomega

    While they will help the fight in Helmand and the South, all what I see this really accomplishing is driving the Taliban back into the mountains where the tanks can’t get to them.

  • Tim

    If it keeps the Taliwankers in the Hills then good show . They can then be picked off at will by the SAS/Delta Force units etc .

  • Mat

    So far the use of tanks by Canadians and Danish proved a great success and greatly reduced attacks on troops that had tanks to support them.Tanks if used correctly are great asset and the firepower they bring is really pin point accurate.Not to mention couple of 120mm shells fired to deal with the position is a lot cheaper than having planes in orbit 24/7 dropping an occasional bomb .

  • ExurbanKevin

    The Canadians figured this out about 6 months into their stay in Helmund and quickly sent for the big guns to help roust out the Taliban from hardened shelters.

    Light and mobile is great for conflicts of movement, but at some point, the hammer is gonna fall and it’s gonna fall hard.

  • MikeB

    I don’t believe it was a defense official. It it was, he wouldn’t have said M1A1, he would have correctly say M1A2 and my guess is they will be the SEP version. Someone in the know would not have made this type of mistake.

  • Blight

    The Soviets used SPAAGs to great effect against high ground ambushes, but we don’t have any.

    Also, more mine clearing vehicles while we are transporting M1 hulls.

    I wonder if SPGs can be used on the battlefield…high traverse and excellent blast effects. Also somewhat protected from small arms fire, though vulnerable to RPGs. Soviets had assault guns mounting artillery tubes for a similar employment.

    The real concern is whether or not the logistics system can support a company of tanks if the Taliban keep destroying supply trains out of Pakistan.

    • Blight

      Urgh, high elevation. That and pondering their previous employment in MOUT during WW2 (Aachen).

  • Blight

    I’m suddenly recalling Ralph Zumbros comments about independent tank operations in Vietnam, and wonder if they are relevant. Vietnam is also one of those countries which allegedly wasn’t tank friendly until studies found it was better than previously thought. I might re read Mounted Combat in VIetnam and ponder if anything is relevant to today..

  • Anonymous

    My sources states interesting things, it seems that it is possible that tanks will be equipped with new version of TUSK kit.

    Known parts of kit will be, enhanced hull belly mine protection (grater than in current TUSK-1 and TUSK-2), all crew will have protecting seats, probably other upgrades.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Afternoon Folks,

    Well after last weeks post on Lt. Gen. Flynn’s article and to establishment of the problems with the MRAP’s, I doubt that the USMC really has any other current option the to bring the M1A1 (or2) Abrams Tank.

    The Taliban had found a weakness in the MRAP’s and has exploited that material or design weakness and it’s killing Marines. The other problem also appears to be a weakness in the body armor that the Marines have chosen over the heavier and more robust body the Army uses.

    If you have ever in an armored vehicle hit by an explosive device you will know that the concussion of the blast is every bid as dangerous as the kinetic effect. The War I was in we called our body armor flak jackets when the body as it bounces around inside a hit vehicle takes quite a bit of punishment and those vests save more then a few guys live in Vietnam a few nasty bruises, busted ribs and you bell rang but you are still alive to talk about them.

    We have had three rounds of MRAP’s, built an inventory of over 50,000 and spent tens of billions of dollars on the da** things and flat out they are not working. It make no sense at all to try again because that all we got and we have to do something.

    The M1A1 (or2) and heavier body armor for vehicle crews is not a final solution but will buy some time. The Taliban is clearly ahead of the US on this issue and we have to turn that around.


    Byron Skinner

  • William C.

    Byron the MRAPs have their share of problems but to say “they are not working” is not truthful. They are significantly more survivable than a typical armored HMMWV or truck and that was the goal. The entire program was a fast response to the type of fighting in Iraq and to me shows that there is indeed still some life left in America’s automotive and manufacturing capability. Nobody is pretending MRAPs are indestructible, but they can survive more than HMMWVs or trucks many infantry units would otherwise be riding around in.

    When it comes to concussion effects, most MRAPs attempt to reduce his through shock absorbing seating configurations and deflecting most of an IED blast, rather than absorbing it.

    The real problem with MRAPs are that they are highly specialized vehicles and won’t have much of a role in many theaters. Yet after these conflicts we should certainly keep several thousand in warehouses somewhere.

  • msufalcon

    MRAPS will continue to have a role in the type of conflicts America will likely be involved in…..a war against Russia or China not so much, but then that brings about another set of issues.

    The real issue is that tanks have different roles depending on the theater. In World War II where the old school proto-typical Cold War tank operations developed from, tanks were seen as battling it out on open plains to decide theater wide operations in a highly mobile atmosphere.

    In an Afghanistan situation tanks aren’t used in large units to win the war, but more as mobile fortresses to control small areas of local battlefield. The worry is about IEDS, but Afghanistan isn’t Iraq. The tanks aren’t patrolling, so much as supporting. I don’t see them wandering back roads, but being mobile heavy support. The Afghans don’t have much that can damage an M-1, regardless of model.

    I’ve seen on these forums that the belief is that Russia/and or China is supplying arms to the Taliban/opposing forces in Afghanistan (not everyone fighting us there is Taliban affiliated), but if that was the case then we would be losing a lot of copters to MANPADS, much like the Russians in Afghanistan. The current Afghan adversaries, whether local villagers, or organized Taliban have almost no ability to destroy a modern battle tank. If they did then the various allied forces in Afghan would have been losing them before we decided to add them to the mix…..

  • Jacob

    Don’t we have Strykers outfitted with 105mm guns? Would those have worked better in Afghanistan?

    • blight

      That’s only if you want a tank for the gun. As mentioned earlier, tanks can go offroad, crush cars (and small primitive walls) and are much more heavily armored while doing it. The particular low-recoil 105mm, if I recall correctly, is the one that was supposed to be mounted to dearly departed M8 AGS.

    • Strykers are built for built-up areas with good roads. They’re an urban AFV that sacrifices robust off-road capability for strategic mobility.

  • A short summary of the decision to deploy armour in Vietnam… http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/re

  • mike

    to be one hundred per cent honest the Canadian decision to deploy tanks to the south was primarily about trying to justify a future heavy armour buy. They have been occasionally useful as a psych measure, but not worth the expense of deploying them or trying to make sure they don’t run over anything that goes boom. I would hesitate to say that the tanks have provided any significant tactical solutions or flexibility so far. CF doctrine in theatre is really, really against knocking down civilians’ stuff and we’ve learned the hard way that there’s no solution for IEDs besides killing guys before they put them in the ground.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Afternoon Folks,

    To blight. I was personally involved in two of the battles that General Starry talks about in “Mounted Combat in Vietnam”. Took out an NVA mortar in the Nov. 21 ambush at Xuan Loc and got I hit on December 2 at Soui Cat (Gia Rey). Both battles we awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Blue).


    Byron Skinner

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening Folks,

    There are lessons from Vietnam that one would have hoped would have been learned, but were not apparently by the generation that went into Iraq. One of those lessons was to keep the pressure on the enemy, and to make him come out in strength, this is what the Armored Cav did best. When it becomes a gun fight its quick and decisive.

    The VC/NVA use of mines or IED’s or EFP’s as they are called to was an effort to try and control the battle field, in reality it served more to block themselves in then to lure in the Americans. We took casualties to be sure 44 years ago tomorrow at the Xuan Loc ambush I lost four friends in a matter of minutes.

    We used a lot more dismounts they they are using today. In the long run this was how we reversed the enemy’s use of mines and bobby traps, again we lost a lot of men, but we also denied the enemy the use of terrain.

    Night ambushes although very unpopular with American troops, myself included was extremely effective in containing the enemy. The enemy then as in Afghanistan today has to move at night to resupply, plant IED’s and position himself, the basic five man ambush patrol could make contact disrupt his activity and hopefully get the he** out of Dodge before the enemy reserves could come into the fight, create an artillery reference point so that in a could nights they could sent out some 155’s instead of us.

    The tactical environment has changed a lot from Vietnam. For the solder it has created far fewer casualties, which is good but has prolonged the war(s), its a trade off. But as In Vietnam when we left an area the enemy quickly reestablished himself. The moral of the story is when you take ground you keep it.

    Armored Units were very effective in Vietnam but the prevailing authorities in the Army were WW II Infantry officers, Vietnam was the war of the greatest generation not WW II, and they didn’t want to share the war with the other branches of the Army. In the end this arrogance in the upper levels of the US Army played more a larger role then acknowledged toward the eventual unsatisfactory outcome of the war in Vietnam.


    Byron Skinner

  • Belesari

    5 months ago in a tent in afghanistan……

    Marine: “What does this fight need…..”
    State Dep guy: “Pickles and kittens and turtles….i like turtles-”
    Marine: “No” God i hate these retards “It needs more Dakka……………”

    5 months later tanks in astan…Dakka delivered

  • Obsydean

    This is not a sign we are winning, this is a sign we are losing. We should be hearing about less firepower, not more. An Abrams does nothing to win heart and mind, in fact its sole purpose is to destroy your heart and mind from a few thousand meters out and then tread right over its charred corpse. Heck, we could have nuked the place a hundred times by now and left a glowing slag heap behind, definitely would make sure the terrorists don’t seek haven. This is a failed project and we need to call it a day.

  • pedestrian

    The use of tanks is nothing new. It was used in the Soviet’s war, while back in those days, Soviet’s had less options and had tactical mistake for its use in the narrow roads of the mountains. Canada has a slo brought several Leopard tanks for their own, and so will US follow. Both countries are assumed to be using tanks in the southern lower portions of Afghan, where Ttanks have advantage and mobility. While less urban than Iraq, US also has used these in Iraq. Tanks have advantage in COIN for its heavy armor, counter IED survivability, counter RPG survivability and sniper survivability , ss well as power to hit fortified position, but more often using Ma Duce machine gun with enough power to punch into enem’ys trench. The use of tanks in COIN has also been used by Israel. Recently, Spencer on Danger Room slammed and criticized the use of tanks for more risks of casualties, but he is also indirectly criticizing Israel which could come under flames. Spencer is a true idiot who did not do enough research on international use of tanks in COIN, and probably does not have any idea about TUSK, TUSK2, as well as similar systems invented by France, and Germany for their own tanks.

  • Obsydean

    Future archeaologists will dig sites and observe a predominance of Soviet-era equipment and ordinance left behind, and rarely the footnote of American occupation evidenced by the odd Abrams left behind.

  • Locarno

    Is it likely that one or more will be damaged?
    Yes, if one blunders into a big enough IED.

    Is is good in mountainous terrain?

    Is it good for friendly ‘hearts and minds’ patrols?

    Does it allow a relatively small force to park itself outside a town or village and say ‘this bit is secure’.
    Yes. No one weapons system can solve every problem – see the back-and-forth debates about MRAPs, or Drones, or whatever. But where operations include days of high-intensity ground warfare, and they do, then there are few more reassuring things to have on your side than one or more current generation Main Battle Tanks.

  • Jacob

    You guys should read the article “Tanks, but No Tanks” on Foreignpolicy.com written by a special forces member.

  • tk

    To all the Nay sayers on this post: Tanks are needed, there are few mountains and plenty of open spaces in S. Afghanistan were we are currently operating. The tanks have protection and we’ve proven to integrated infantry and CIED measures effectively in Iraq. And incase anyone hasn’t noticed, Helmand is the most dangerous and most kinetic of all the areas. We are in anything but a COIN fight. They provide tremendous capabiltiy for fires and observation. Also, given our ROE restrictions the tanks proivde the best fire support solution because of their accuracy, leathality and mobility. Maybe if some of you actually came over here and fought you would understand. -from someone who is here…

  • Martin

    I’d love to know what a Panzer Lehr or Leibstandarte veteran would think of this. Yes
    even M1A2 can be breached by a shell buried vertically. Surely if supported by infantry clearing the IEDs, the tanks can then deny Tali of ground. We must all take stock of the effectiveness of correctly deployed tanks with infantry. If not used properly the tanks are left hanging out to dry. Thats what happenned to the Elefants at Kursk, when they got ahead of the infantry. They were not fitted with machine guns. Yes the Panzer divisions eventually lost (thanks to P47s? and the carpet bombing of Panzer Lehr)) but even though its a long time ago, we must, as armchair generals, not dismiss the examples they demonstrated even though it ackowledges the might of the then enemy..