This is not the Turkey you want to see in the headlines at this time of year…
Posts Tagged ‘Russia’
The problem with doing an update on Syria is that I’m not sure anyone knows what the hell is going on there.
The motivations of the major local players are clear: Assad wants to survive and maintain power, while his paymasters in Iran want to back him and the Shia against the Islamic State and other Sunni groups. The Islamic State wants to establish its brutal medieval caliphate over first Mesopotamia and the Levant, then the entire Ummah, then the entire world, exterminating Shia and subjugating Christians and Jews to dhimmitude along the way. The Saudis want to back Sunnis (possibly including the Islamic State). The Kurds just want to survive. Etc.
However, what Barack Obama and Vladamir Putin want is considerably less clear.
Obama, after royally screwing Iraq by pulling U.S. troops out after Bush had largely stabilized it (at great expense in money and lives), seems to want to fight a pretend air war against the Islamic State and a pretend insurgency against Assad in order to keep reporters from asking him about it, thus kicking the can down the road for the next President to deal with. (Then again, perhaps this gives Obama too much credit. Maybe, like Jeremy Corbyn’s desire to give the Falklands back, Obama screwed up Iraq just for the pure leftish joy of undoing the achievements of a conservative leader he loathed…)
What does Putin want to accomplish in Syria? Prop up a military equipment-buying client state in Syria? Support a more important client state in Iran? Give Obama a black eye? Keep Russians distracted from domestic economic woes with military adventurism abroad? Make Russia the dominate political power in the Middle East, filling the vacuum Obama left with America’s withdrawal and betrayal of regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia? Actually destroy the Islamic State? Take the Shia side in a the wider Sunni-Shia conflict?
Here are some links on Syria:
If Russia ends up bolstering Iran’s position in Syria (by expanding Hezbollah’s influence and capabilities) and if the Russian air force effectively takes control of Iraq thus allowing Iran to exert a greater influence over the government in Baghdad, the fragile balance of power that has existed in the region will be turned on its head and in the event this plays out, one should not expect Washington, Riyadh, Jerusalem, and London to simply go gentle into that good night.
Sure enough, some experts now predict Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey will move to counter Russia militarily if Moscow continues to rack up gains for Assad.
because Vladimir Putin, with all the unpredictability of the morning sun, has invaded Syria on behalf of Assad and Putin’s more important ally Iran — Assad’s longtime string-puller. The Russian strongman’s claimed purpose is to fight the Islamic State — a pretext no more real than was the supposed need to protect indigenous Russian populations that Putin cited in invading Georgia, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine.
The Syrian mess has gotten messier
Putin, with China’s indulgence, is obviously attempting to fortify a sphere of anti-American influence across the Middle East. Anti-Americanism in this Islamic-supremacist region long predates Putin, of course. What has changed is that the United States is governed by a man of the hard Left — a president who is sympathetic to the Islamist narrative about American imperialism, ambivalent at best about American power, and determined to diminish America’s regional commitments, and thus American influence.
The move provides a foothold in a part of the world that the Soviet Union was kicked out of four decades ago. At a moment when the United States appears to be washing its hands of the increasingly bloody and chaotic region, it gives Russia an expanding military presence in the Mediterranean on the doorstep of a NATO ally (its newly established airfield at Latakia in eastern Syria sits just 75 miles from the border with Turkey), and the gambit may yet serve as leverage with the West as Putin seeks to get out from under economic sanctions imposed as a result of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
The problem for America is that a logical Middle East policy is impossible as long as Obama is President and Kerry is Secretary of State.
Can Putin achieve long-term victory in Syria where Obama’s fecklessness couldn’t? Maybe. Can Iran and Russia together crush the Islamic State? If Russia wanted to commit serious ground combat forces (think Operation Iraqi Freedom), probably, but that would be an exceptionally expensive move that would spread Russian forces dangerously thin elsewhere. But considering that does not appear to be Russia’s immediate goal, which seems to be crushing the Free Syrian Army and allied forces in Western Syria, expect the war against the Islamic State to drag out indefinitely.
Except for the Kurds (which Obama’s feckless policies have refused to adequately support), the Syrian Civil War is bad guys vs. bad guys all the way down. Assad surviving, or a long-running war between Russia and the Islamic State, are far from the worst possible outcomes…
Anyone paying attention has long known what a miserable failure Obama’s Syrian strategy (such as it is) against Bashar Assad has been. But only recently has it come to light just how ridiculously expensive that miserable failure has been:
The aim was to identify reasonably secular moderate fighters in Syria, transfer them to third-party countries in the region, train them, equip them, and reintroduce them into the theater of operations. By August of this year and $500 million later, the Pentagon acknowledged that only 54 Syrian rebels had been prepared for combat. Less than a month later, almost all of them had been killed or captured.
$500 Million for 54 guys? What were they, hand-crafted artisanal rebels? Where did the money go? Did they hire Damien Hirst to make each of their 54 uniforms? Did each of the 54 make a $1 million donation to the Clinton Foundation? Even by the pathetic standards of the Obama Administration that’s a ridiculous amount of graft, fraud and waste. You could easily have trained and equipped an effective mercenary brigade for that much money.
There were actual reasons to support the removal of Assad early in the Obama Administration, but the rise of the Islamic State rendered most of them obsolete. Now that Obama and Kerry have rolled over to let Assad’s paymasters in Tehran rub their furry bellies, there’s no point in pretending to equip opposition fighters beyond Obama’s desire to keep up the facade of a Syrian policy as a sop to his wounded vanity.
Since Obama can’t topple Assad and is singularly unwilling to fight a real war against the Islamic State, at this point we should probably just let Iran, Syria and Russia try their hands at crushing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s barbaric caliphate. A long, grinding Sunni-Shia civil war in Mesopotamia is probably among the least bad outcomes available for the region after Obama’s serial bungling…
(Hat tip: Ed Driscoll on Instapundit.)
Small LinkSwarm this time.
Last week was almost Russian Tank Week on BattleSwarm, but a plethora of news intervened (like Vladimir Putin intervening in the affairs of neighboring states).
But one interesting tidbit I didn’t get to was the fact that Russia has introduced a new generation of tanks (and mechanized fighting vehicles more generally, all based off the same base platform).
So is the new Russian T-14 Armata main battle tank something to worry about, or does the M1A2 Abrams retain clear technological superiority?
To my very, very outsider eyes, the answer is somewhere in-between.
First the description from Jane’s:
The T-14 is Russia’s first truly new tank design since the T-72, designed in the early 1970s. Based on the Armata Universal Tracked Platform, the T-14’s most attention-grabbing feature is its unmanned turret, with all of the MBT’s three crew (commander, driver, gunner) seated in a well-protected crew compartment at the front of the hull.
Notably, the unveiled turret dispels suggestions the MBT would be armed with a coaxial 30 mm cannon, in addition to its 2A82A 125 mm main gun. Indeed the pre-production vehicles paraded by Russia feature neither a 30 mm cannon nor a coaxial machine gun (MG) armament as expected, although the production vehicles might eventually feature the dual 30 mm cannon/7.62 mm MG.
Although the T-14’s turret features a large bustle, it remains unclear whether this features the autoloader/weapon-handling system for the MBT’s main gun or serves another purpose (meaning the T-14 would retain the vulnerable hull-mounted carousel system present in previous Russian MBTs). Some reports also indicate Russia has not entirely abandoned its ambitions to arm Armata with a 152 mm main gun. If this is the case, it could explain why the T-14’s unmanned turret has an unusually high profile relative to the position of the 125 mm main gun, with the turret possibly designed to incorporate growth potential up to the 152 mm calibre.
T-14 is armed with a remote-controlled turret (RCT) armed with a 7.62 mm PKTM MG, with the unit also functioning as the commander’s independent sight. The gunner’s sight is mounted to the left side of the main gun and shielded by a two-piece armoured door to protect it from small arms fire. A barrel reference unit is mounted above the base of the 2A82A main gun, which notably lacks a fume bore extractor (which would be superfluous given the turret is unmanned). Metrological, satellite communications, GLONASS, datalink, and radio communications antennae are fitted on the roof of the turret.
The MBT’s turret is literally covered in a variety of launcher and sensor systems understood to be linked to a new APS system, which some reports call ‘Afghanit’. At the base of each side of the turret are five large and fixed horizontally arrayed launch tubes covering the 120° frontal arc of the turret. These bear a strong resemblance to the launchers for the earlier Drozd and Drozd-2 APS, which fired a hard-kill 107 mm unguided projectile armed with a high-explosive-(HE) fragment warhead to defeat incoming anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).
The T-14 is also fitted with four sets of smaller-calibre launchers, with each unit armed with 12 launch tubes. Two horizontally trainable launcher units are fitted on either side of the top of the turret, while two apparently fixed and vertically facing launcher units are recessed into the top of the tank’s turret.
It is unclear whether this second system fires hard-kill (ie warheads) or soft-kill (ie anti-infrared/laser-obscuring smoke) munitions, or a combination of the two. It is also unclear if the vertically mounted units are fireable, or simply storage for reload units for the two trainable launchers. One limitation of the Drozd systems were that they provided no protection against threats emanating from above the tank, so mounting the fixed launchers vertically could be one way to provide protection against top-attack threats.
Providing warning and guidance for the APS system are two types of sensors mounted around the T-14’s turret. Two large sensors, believed to be electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR)-based laser warning receivers, are angularly mounted on the front of the turret providing 180° coverage, while four smaller sensors (covered but believed to be radars) are mounted around the turret providing 360° coverage.
Armata features a notably different hull design to the T-72/90. One striking difference is the road wheels, which are of a different design to the T-72/90’s, while the Armata features seven road wheels, to the six of the previous MBT designs, with the drive wheel at the rear. This is similar to the T-80 MBT family, which also has chassis with seven smaller road wheels.
It is not known whether Armata is equipped with a gas-turbine or a diesel engine [given how the Russian chain of command swore off gas-turbine engines after the T-80’s performance in the first Chechen war, probably diesel. -LP] , but the T-14’s powerpack is mounted at the rear of the MBT, with two internal fuel tanks mounted on either side, and exhausts also mounted on either side. Day/night cameras are mounted around the T-14’s turret to provide situational awareness, while a forward-looking EO/IR (FLIR) system is mounted on the front of the hull for the driver. The driver’s hatch has no periscopes. When driving buttoned-down, the driver may be in a reclined position, using a set of periscopes mounted on a second hatch directly behind him.
NII Stali is understood to have designed a new form of steel armour for the Armata family. Speaking to TASS, a NII Stali representative said the “steel armour alloy, named 44S-sv-Sh [44S–], is approved by the Armata’s developer. The alloy’s operational testing has been started and it can be used in prospective vehicles’ parts”. The use of the 44S-sv-Sh steel in Armata is intended to provide protection at a similar level to STANAG 4569 (first edition) Level 5. The high level of 44S-sv-Sh’s protection is ensured by the short-grained material structure, the optimised legation process and the special heat processing. The steel has also been designed to maintain its characteristics in very cold conditions.
The Armata design is also understood to utilise explosive reactive armour (ERA) within its base design (rather than the appliqué ERA tiles seen on previous Russian MBTs), with views from above the MBT showing a distinctive tiled pattern indicative of ERA on the top of the vehicle’s chassis and turret. Although what appear to be ERA tiles are present on the turret roof, much of the sides of the turret appears to be just a thin cladding covering the various APS and sighting systems rather than armour. Appliqué armour (unclear if passive or ERA, or both) is fitted to the forward two thirds of the T-14’s sides, while the rear third is protected by bar armour to provide clearance for the T-14’s exhausts.
Here’s a picture of the front by way of NPR:
I’m not going to get into the electronics/sensor/packages, since it’s all devil-in-the-details stuff impossible to evaluate at this point. (The active protection system could be very interesting, but there’s no way of knowing how it stacks up to Israel’s Trophy or the still-under-development U.S. Quick Kill.)
The big reasons I think the M1A2 retains overall superiority:
That said, there are a number of interesting features on the T-14:
All this assumes that significant numbers of the T-14 actually get built, given that Russia has cancelled at least two separate tank programs (Black Eagle and the T-95) to follow on to the T-72/T-80, and that their economy is really biting the yak in the wake of the oil price collapse and Ukraine sanctions. But the shared Armata platform probably helped reduce development and production costs, and I suspect it will get put into production, as a big new main battle tank seems like exactly the sort of thing Vladimir Putin likes seeing built.
This is just a quick overview based on limited information. Those with more information and/or deeper subject knowledge are welcome to sound off in the comments.
Update: Missed this Jane’s update on the T-14’s armor.
The base armour on the new tank consists of metal-ceramic plates. Novosibirsk-based company NEVZ-Ceramics has already launched serial production of this product, according to Andrey Nikitin, the head of the company’s armoured ceramics bureau. “We finished the trials this year and the elements revealed their declared capability,” he said.
Nikitin said the new metal/ceramic armour provides one-and-a-half times more resistance than fully metal systems.
Judging from the stats on my previous tank flip video, there are few things blog readers love more than watching Russian tanks flip over.
Because I’m A.) Here to serve, and B.) Feeling incredibly lazy right now, here’s another Russian tank flipping over:
Looks like an old T-34 to me…
This appears to be from some sort of Russian tank proving ground. Skip to 1:46 for the really interesting stuff.
Honestly, until I saw this I was unaware it was even possible to roll a T-72 on level ground.
That’s some might fine driving you’ve done there, Ivan…
Update: Comments below and elsewhere seem to indicate this is a Kuwaiti driver managing to roll the tank.