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Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution, Book By Richard Ogorkiewicz

A chapter on development of strategic use of tanks

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Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution, Book By Richard Ogorkiewicz
Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution, Book By Richard Ogorkiewicz, Pixabay
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Their looming profile and bristling armaments make them the most easily identifiable piece of military hardware. But tanks, which represent a watershed in the age-old military technology contest between offensive and defensive capacities and mobile and static weaponry, are at their best only when their key attributes are in sync.

Their entire story, which dates from much before they first trundled on to the battlefield in World War I — as this book shows — hinges on the development and interplay of these attributes: Mobility, protection, firepower and communication.

Experts, however, differ on these attributes’ relative importance. As an anecdote goes, a tank officer recalled that, in his training, there were three modules: Driving, where they were told that immobile tanks were of no use; radio, where they were told that lack of communication made tanks useless; and gunnery, where they learnt that without firepower, tanks were essentially a 50-tonne portable radio.

But as Richard Ogorkiewicz recounts here, the development, modification and testing of these attributes not only underlines the evolution of tanks but also of human ingenuity and technology — and stubbornness to change.

Concentrating on mobility, firepower and protection, he presents a “comprehensive account of the worldwide evolution and employment of tanks from their inception to the present day”.

And while this is a story that Ogorkiewicz is well qualified to tell, as one of the foremost civilian experts on tanks, he adds a number of interesting nuggets. Say, the role of major car-makers — Rolls-Royce, Fiat, Daimler, Renault, etc., in the evolution of armoured military vehicles, and unexpected countries with roles in tanks’ history.

heavy war armour vehicle: Tank
heavy war armour vehicle: Tank, Pixabay

Also a long-time independent member of several scientific advisory committees of the British Defence Ministry, the author notes that while tanks’ military importance and general interest have led to a number of books on them (including three authoritative works by him): “There is much more to be said about them, not only because of the more recent developments or because of tanks’ worldwide proliferation but also because of the misconceptions about their origins and other developments.”

He kicks off on this mission by revisiting conventional history of self-propelled, armoured military vehicles, whose origins, we learn, go back further than we thought to the year of Napoleon’s birth (1769) — though this particular venture by a French military engineer got nowhere, nor did the brief revival of interest in the mid-19th century.

Ogorkiewicz shows how the course only began via development of armoured cars in various European armies in the early 20th century — with Italy taking an early lead here.

He then charts the development, the false starts and piecemeal attempts that marked tanks in World War I, before going on to how they faced another problem post-war, when even the victors (save France) reduced the inventories while traditionalist high commands disparaged their contribution or ruled out their independent use.

Recounting how tanks made a comeback courtesy some visionary and dedicated British military theorists — along with the mistakes the country’s military leadership made and their consequences in the next World War — he takes up developments in this field in other major powers: France, the US, Italy, the Soviet Union and Germany, as well as in Poland, Sweden and Japan.

A chapter on development of strategic use of tanks offers a thoughtful prelude to an armoured battle view of the Second World War.

Military tank
Military tank, Pixabay

Ogorkiewicz then deals with the changed battlefield after the Second World War, and how tanks survived the onslaught of hand-held — and then more sophisticated — anti-tank weapons. Apart from the five dominant tank powers — the US, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and Germany — he also takes a look at other countries which tried, including Switzerland, Israel and Argentina.

Asian countries, especially China, Pakistan and India, get their own section, in which he makes an incisive summary of Indian armoured forces’ developments, shortcomings and achievements, before offering his assessment of the future and some technical appendices.

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Though not a book for the casual reader due to its wealth of technical detail, it gives an expansive look not only at tanks, but the transforming paradigms of war-fighting, which changed from soldiers walking or riding to find and engage the enemy to long-ranging, combined-arms operations. Military buffs, this is for you. (IANS)

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India, US Expand Defense Ties By Signing A Deal

The U.S. and India also agreed to hold a new military exercise. The exercise will involve sea, land, and air forces. It will occur of the eastern coast of India in 2019.

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India and us, defense
US, India Ink Deal to Expand Defense Ties Wikimedia Commons.

The United States and India took a major step to expand defense ties Thursday, signing a deal that allows India to acquire high-end U.S. weaponry, including armed drones.

The agreement was signed during a meeting in New Delhi among U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and their Indian counterparts.

The U.S. earlier this year offered armed Guardian drones to India, but the sale could not go through until the agreement, known as COMCASA, was reached.

“The landmark agreement deepens our military to military cooperation and our ability to share the most advanced defense technology, making us both stronger,” Mattis said.

If the Guardian sale goes through, India would become the first non-NATO country to buy armed U.S. drones.

The deal reflects growing ties between the U.S. and India – the world’s two largest democracies – both of whom are concerned about China’s rising power.

Defense cooperation, in particular, has emerged as the “most significant dimension” of the U.S.-India relationship, said Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

 

India and usa,defense
Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis before the start of the 2+2 meeting at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.VOA

 

U.S.-India ties, she said, have reached “unprecedented heights.”

Iran, Russia disagreements

The U.S. and India haven’t always been this close. India, which has historically tried to be neutral in world affairs, has bristled at what it considers U.S. restraints on its foreign policy decisions.

Most recently, the U.S. has taken issue with India’s purchase of oil from Iran and its planned acquisition of a Russian missile defense system. Both moves would violate U.S. sanctions.

A Pentagon official last month threatened to impose sanctions on India if it goes ahead with its $6 billion purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

But in their public comments Thursday, neither side mentioned the Russia or Iran disputes. And the S-400 never came up in private discussions with India’s defense and external affairs ministers, said Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia Joe Felter.

Iran also “wasn’t a big topic,” he said.

Most of India’s weapons are Russian-made, a legacy of India’s Cold War relationship with the Soviet Union. The U.S. is currently India’s second-largest weapons supplier.

India and usa,defense
U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet with their counterparts Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman for the 2+2 meeting at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, India. VOA

But U.S. military sales to India have expanded rapidly – going from zero in 2008 to $15 billion this year. That figure now stands to increase, with the new agreement in place.

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“It comes down to trust. Some of this tech is very sensitive. Some countries we don’t want this tech to fall in the hands of,” Felter said, adding the U.S. has similar agreements with less than 30 countries.

The U.S. and India also agreed to hold a new military exercise. The exercise will involve sea, land, and air forces. It will occur of the eastern coast of India in 2019. (VOA)