The Opinions. Section 4: Warfare on wheels.
I was planning on releasing this earlier during the week, but I got a few games from steam so I decided to go ahead and sink my teeth into those games. Now enough about me, let’s get onto this week’s topic: wheeled armoured vehicles. Are they here to stay? What are the benefits over tracked vehicles, and most importantly what are the disadvantages.
Well let’s begin with what I mean by ‘armoured vehicles”? First off, they are not those Brinks armored trucks going around collecting money, no were talking military armoured vehicles such as armoured fighting vehicles. Now the current trend with military vehicles is a need to be highly mobile, able to deploy rapidly, and is cost-effective. With wheeled armoured vehicles, not only are they cost effective (wheels instead of tracks), but they offer high mobility and can carry the firepower of a main battle tank (along with a host of other variants to fulfill different roles).
When compared to tracks in regards to weight distribution, it’s no question that a tracked armoured vehicle can carry more due to the vehicle’s ability to distribute weight across the broad surface of tracks. However despite this limitation, wheeled armoured vehicles can still carry some armour, and most importantly, it can carry the firepower of a tank which is important for a rapid deployment force looking for a quick fix to their firepower problems (example being the Centauro B1 of Italy, sporting a 105mm gun, that same gun used on an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank). However while it lacks in the amount of armour it can carry, wheeled armoured vehicles (WAVs) have greater speed and mobility, and to add a bit more armour, they simply add more wheels to the configuration. Everything else (cargo load, troop capacity etc) is a tie between the two configurations of tracks versus wheels.
Current military trends (with the demand for a mobile, hard-hitting strike force that can deploy anywhere and, hopefully be air transportable), show that wheeled armoured vehicles are not only more cost effective, but with the anti-tank capabilities easily added on, they are the prime choice for the rapid strike forces of today’s battlefield. Now let me be clear, there is no way tracked vehicles (especially main battle tanks) will ever be replaced with these lighter vehicles. However when engaging in rapid deployment operations, WAVs are the way to go when it comes to speed and mobility. Not only that, some variants can even be air-lifted, thus giving it advantage over a tracked vehicle which is heavier and requires either assembly when deployed, or must be landed on a coast, of which if the enemy country were landlocked, would prove a near impossible task.
With various nations looking to get more bang for their buck as they say, WAVs can be that cost-effective alternative for a couple of reasons. One, they are cheaper to repair than tanks, whereby the track assembly requires various parts in order to make the vehicle function. In the case of a wheeled armoured vehicle, only the tires or wheels themselves need to be replaced, at worst the axel along with the tire and wheel. Two, wheeled armoured vehicles are also easier to maintain, as the job of washing them can be done with a high-pressure hose while a tracked vehicle will require a complete disassembly of the tracks in order to clean between each piece.
While all this quick deployment and the “ease to use, easy to maintain” element makes a wheeled armoured vehicle sound better in the long run, there is one role a wheeled armoured vehicle might have difficulty fulfilling. A main battle tank has enough armour to spearhead an assault, whereas wheeled armoured vehicles can only be used to either conduct flank protection, low level harassment of the enemy positions, or utility tasks. The amount of armour available to a wheeled armoured vehicle is not strong enough to resist heavy anti-tank rounds that would be employed against them. To this end, a main battle tank is still useful on the battlefield, for its role in punching through the enemy line, is a must have asset for any military force wishing to have strong offensive capabilities to repel an invader or secure a beachhead for other friendly forces to land.
One of the fears amongst western military strategists in particular of the current trend, is whether or not the knowledge of how to make advanced heavy armour would be lost in time due to the near absolute reliance on wheeled armoured vehicles. While a valid fear, in my opinion no one within the military community is naive enough to simply throw away heavy armour manufacturing techniques and rely on something that is lighter and while could be massed produced, could also be destroyed en masse.
So to summarize, while speed and mobility are a definite asset, wheeled armoured vehicles can never truly replace battle tanks as they lack the heavy armour necessary to fulfill the role of spearheading assaults into enemy territory. With that said, they still have their uses as troop carriers and as scouting vehicles to be used for the purposes of gathering intelligence on enemy positions so that commanders can better plan their strategy. Whether or not one is better than the other is entirely up to the reader, but for the most part I say both are valuable.
Anyways this has been your long awaited Opinions topic. I hope you enjoyed reading about this interesting trend in the military, and I’ll see you next time.