At the end of the summer, or sometime in the fall, Kiev expects the 31 M1A2 Abrams tanks promised by Washington. At first glance, this promised number of tanks does not impress. Many experts, including us, have talked about the many tanks that Russia has. Many experts, including us, have given the Russian tanks an advantage over the Abrams.
- Rare look: Ukrainian army uses the Humvee-mounted Hydra 70 rockets
- Soviet-era unique T-72M1 tank was spotted near Camp Dodge, Iowa
- Abrams M1A2 tanks for Ukraine will be green and much ‘gelded’ – US
It’s time to look at the expected battle between American and Russian armor from another angle. Greater numbers do not always mean superiority or a clear way out. History remembers cases that are proof of this statement.
The battle of battles, or “the most significant tank battle” of recent history, is the exact example that Ukraine should study. It’s a lesson in tactics and an opportunity for Kiev to deliver a memorable, if not game-changing, blow on the supposed counter-offensive. It is about the Battle of 73 Easting
February 26, 1991
February 26, 1991 will be remembered in American history as well as Iraqi history. Gulf War is underway. Nine M1A1 Abrams tanks, 12 M3A2 Bradley fighting vehicles and 120 infantrymen were to carry out reconnaissance. The order from the Pentagon was not to engage in direct combat. This equipment was to advance the 67th Kimometer east along the center line of the coalition forces.
This American combat unit was led by Captain H.R. McMaster. In similar maneuvers, ground forces are supported by air. A-10s and helicopters provide support, but much less than expected. The reason – on the same day, a sandstorm raged in the region. Helicopters have difficulty operating in such conditions. Visibility is also severely limited.
Whether it’s bad weather or misreading the coordinates, McMaster’s men are actually going a little north. Thus they fall in the immediate vicinity of a training camp. However, the 10th armored division of the Iraqi army is stationed there. It is renowned as one of Iraq’s two most numerous and well-trained tank divisions. And if US forces were given orders not to engage, the 10th Armored Division was ordered to halt the American advance.
Major Mohammed was the leader of the Iraqi tanks that day. American reports indicate that the Iraqi soldiers knew the terrain very well in the area. Many experts then say that this particular region is perfectly suited for Iraqi tanks.
Mohammed’s tanks and infantry are in a defensive position. What’s more, they’ve been training for the past few weeks, which means there are shelters built. Near them is a village where several ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” anti-aircraft guns are located. These guns have radar guidance.
It was the village that was in the main plan of Mohammed. Fortified and between buildings, Muhammad hoped to scatter the Americans north, turning the village into a hornet’s nest. Mohammed deployed 18 T-72 battle tanks in a circle about three thousand meters away. The village was mined. The 18 tanks were to stop the Americans from trying to break through Mohammed’s defenses.
One major difference should be noted: despite the unknown territory, the Americans know very well where they are going and what obstacles the terrain hides. Abrams and Bradley are equipped with advanced sensors and electro-optical systems.
The first Bradley within two minutes hits three tanks of the chain – the first, second and third on the right flank. At the same time, return fire started from the buildings in the village. McMaster orders all nine tanks to attack the buildings and shelters. In just minutes, the buildings are gone.
Tanks are left without cover. A battle begins between the Bradley/Abrams tandems and the Iraqi T-72s, T-62s and T-55s. Nine tanks against 50 Iraqi m at this point. However, the Americans are accurate. Soviet tank turrets start flying. The reason – the American tank crews know that, unlike their Abrams, the Soviet tank carries 40 shells stored in the rear part of the turret. Any hit in the turret of the Soviet tanks leads to the tearing off of the turret after a powerful explosion.
Nine to eight
The American commander thought it was time for Bradley to withdraw from the battle. He orders the combat vehicles to slow down and, wedged between them, sends the nine Abrams tanks. However, this is a trap set by Mohammed. These nine are met by five Soviet tanks side by side. There are three more behind them.
The first of the eight Abrams tanks does not wait for a second invitation. The tank crew decides to change the charge. They put the M829A1 projectile – a fin-stabilized projectile and a depleted uranium penetrator. The first Iraqi tank was hit with a projectile velocity of 3,500 miles per hour at a distance of 1,420 yards. Three seconds later, the second Iraqi tank in line was also hit by the first American tank. In this tank is not just anyone, namely the commander of the unit – Captain McMaster.
Iraqi tank fire ensued and the American group was forced to disperse. McMaster’s tank climbs a sand ridge and overlooks the location of 39 more Iraqi tanks and 54 armored vehicles.
Battle of 70 Easting
The battle at 70 Easting had already been going on for a long time, but it was at this moment that McMaster received word from command that they had reached position 70 Easting. If he decides to advance it is a violation of a direct order. But if he withdraws he leaves exposed the American troops coming after them. At this point, the T-72 could safely fire on the American troops as they were within range of the tank.
McMaster decided to act and a fierce tank battle began. At the same time, the Bradleys decided to help the tanks and, with precision equipment, managed to neutralize the Shilka anti-aircraft missile systems in the village.
While all this is happening, the American Abrams have already destroyed 15 T-72 tanks. Iraqi tanks also successfully target and engage American armor. But the shells of the Iraqis cannot achieve any result. The projectiles simply ricocheted off the armor without damaging it.
In 23 minutes, McMaster’s men destroyed 47 tanks and 34 armored vehicles. The Americans lost not one tank, not one Bradley, not one weapon, platform or equipment of any kind in this half-hour battle.
Ukraine is not a Gulf War
This example is a great illustration of what we have always argued in our analysis – more important than numbers in a combat unit is only experience. Tanks are not platforms that require any comparison. Nowadays, both American and Russian tanks are well equipped, with good sensors and fire control systems. All it takes is an excellent tank crew to give the advantage.
However, Ukraine is radically different from Gulf War. First – Ukraine needs a mountain of money. These tanks are excellent, even superior weapons if operated by a rich country. 10 gallons of fuel to start and between 2 and 10 gallons per mile are needed by an Abrams.
This difference leads us to the second one – logistics. In Iraq, 35 countries sided with the US. The coalition stepped inside the country. 3,100 Abrams tanks were then deployed by the Americans. Only Ukrainians and Russians fight in Ukraine. There is no direct aid inside the country. At least not as large as the requirements would be. There isn’t the necessary logistics to be any kind of guarantee.
Ukrainians should learn from the battle of 70 Easting. Despite the flaws and inconsistencies between the two battlefields.
Follow us everywhere and at any time. BulgarianMilitary.com has responsive design and you can open the page from any computer, mobile devices or web browsers. For more up-to-date news, follow our Google News, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages. Our standards: Manifesto & ethical princliples.