A Good Argument for Wheeled Armor
Always like to use critics’ own arguments concerning the limitations of off the shelf or low cost weapons against them, and here is a case in point. This DoD Buzz article detailing the merits and minuses of both wheeled and track armor had the following to say against the former:
The problem with wheeled vehicles is they fast reach an upper weight limit, around the 30 ton range, where performance goes completely out the window; wheels just offer far less footprint to spread the weight around than tracks.
I see the 30 ton weight limit as a plus, since it is an unsurmountable incentive to halt the dramatic rise in the size and cost of armored vehicles. Better armor and guns are fine but at some point it meets absurdity like the German giants of the late WW 2, where they were so heavy as to be increasingly immobile on the battlefield. A few large tanks didn’t matter anyway, since the Allies were swamping this with mass productions of vehicles like the Sherman and the T-34.
The 70 ton M-1 Abrams seems to be the limit for the tank, and the only way to go from here is smaller and lighter. But you don’t need some dramatic breakthrough in armor to reduce the size of tanks. We already have these with reactive armor like Chobham and active defenses like Trophy and also cage armor, plus even certain types of cloth! Where these can be fitted on the main battle tanks, likewise can they be equally effective on the armored cars like Stryker, and have been.
As with vehicle protection, the same might be said of its offensive armament. Now it isn’t so much the size of a vehicle guns, but what type of round the gun fires whether Sabot or HEAT. Some might do away with the gun altogether for the increasingly lethal anti-tank guided missile.
Recently we posted on the American use of wheeled armor versus the Canadians use of Leopard tanks in Afghanistan. We thought it interesting the fact that the US troops could do without the tanks, as much as heavy armor proponents would still laud the use of tracked armor in such rough terrain. Considering the tremendous logistical baggage such a very heavy vehicle brings with it, our thinking that the continued miniaturization warfare might favor the smaller, more affordable off the shelf vehicles better.
We would keep some tracked vehicles around, which in prohibitive terrain might be needed to pull the Stryker out of the mud! Just as in civilian life, not every vehicle is a four wheel drive, in a combat situation every vehicle need not be of the tractor variety.