Why Can't U.S. Army Tanks Tell When They Are Being Targeted? (excerpt)
(Source: Forbes magazine; posted July 10, 2017)
By Loren Thompson
Ben Franklin offered a parable in Poor Richard's Almanac (1758) about how a kingdom could be lost for want of a simple nail. Without the nail, a horse lost its shoe; without the shoe, the horse was disabled and a rider could not deliver his message; without the message, a battle was lost; and losing the battle brought down the kingdom.

Philadelphia's favorite son wasn't the first sage to warn that small failings can lead to huge consequences -- especially in wartime -- but it seems every generation needs to relearn the lesson. Bridges collapse for want of paint and planes crash because one item was skipped on the pilot's pre-flight checklist.

Then there is the U.S. Army's failure to install a simple warning system on its combat vehicles for detecting the most common means by which enemies target them. That is a disaster still waiting to happen, but the next war in Europe could be the place where the lesson is painfully relearned.

The targeting technology is lasers. Many of the world's most capable antitank weapons now use lasers to hit targets like tanks and troop carriers. In some cases, the weapon detects laser energy reflecting off the intended target, and homes in on it. In other cases, the weapon literally rides the laser beam to the target.

In either case, the outcome can be devastating. For instance, the Russian military has a laser beam-riding antitank missile referred to by Western intelligence as the AT-14 Kornet that can penetrate 1,000 millimeters (roughly a yard) of heavy armor from three miles away. The weapon has been sold to a dozen countries, including Iran and Syria.

Without a laser detector to warn the missile's arrival is imminent, U.S. soldiers in an Abrams tank or Bradley troop carrier might have no idea they are under attack. So it is worrisome that the U.S. Army is the only major ground force in the world that lacks laser detection capability on its combat vehicles.

Army leaders are aware of the danger. In fact, they stated a requirement for laser detectors on combat vehicles way back in 1994, well before the Kornet was fielded, and then went on to select the system they wanted to install on future vehicles a decade ago. But the service was bogged down fighting terrorists and the vehicles got canceled, so not much was done. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Forbes magazine website.


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