The idea that “Nothing endures but change” was first attributed to an ancient Greek philosopher named Heraclitus. (He also wisely proclaimed “It is better to hide ignorance, but it is hard to do this when we relax over wine”)
And so it is that we must embrace change and for a time, become accustomed to a “new normal” — until it once again evolves.
For the last 97 years, tanks have been utilized by the U.S. Marine Corps. But now, as a result of budget cuts, new emerging threats and how future battles will be conducted, the Marines will be phasing out and eventually eliminating all four tank battalions, including three active and one reserve. Around two hundred tanks will be permanently retired from the Corps.
The various personnel required to operate the tanks will either be reduced by natural attrition or reassigned to other roles.
According to USNI News, the Marine Corps understands it’s not “optimized to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy,” particularly as it relates to China.
The coronavirus notwithstanding, many experts believe China poses the biggest military threat to the U.S. and its allies, and if there’s ever a war between them and us, much of it will occur in the South China Sea.
In recent years, China as staked claim to up to 90 percent of the islands, islets, atolls and shoals in the sea, and established military bases at several key locations.
The Marines would almost certainly be deployed to seize these islands, but the islands' small size limits the size of the force needed to defend or take them. Apparently, the Marines think 65-ton M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks won’t be needed in amphibious assaults, especially since China is unlikely to base their own tanks on these islands. Furthermore, heavy cannon artillery would also be unnecessary, as the islands are too tiny to utilize their range.
Ergo, tanks will be phased out, and long-range rocket artillery will be increased.
Development of the M1 Abrams tank began in the 1970s and it had a starring role in the 1990 Gulf War, fighting alongside the older M60 Patton. One of the new technologies built into the Abrams was GPS, which made it much simpler for U.S. Forces to navigate vast distances in the Iraqi desert.
The Gulf War proved to be perhaps the last great tank battle of the 20th century.
Per Popular Mechanics, On February 26th, 1991, at the Battle of 73 Eastings, the superior technology and training of the M1 Abrams and its crews came to the fore as Captain H.R. McMaster seized the initiative and led a 9-tank troop straight at the heart of an elite Iraqi armored division.
Once the enemy frontline was broken McMaster used his tanks’ speed and maneuverability to swing around and attack the Iraqi reserves. “More of the enemy came into view. We drove our tanks into the center of the [Iraqi] position and destroyed many of the enemy vehicles from the rear.”
The day after the battle at 73 Eastings, the 1st Armored Division clashed with several Iraqi armored divisions at Medina Ridge in the last major tank battle of Operation Desert Storm.
Iraqi forces lost 186 tanks while the U.S. lost only four.
Fast forward to now, and the U.S. has increasingly fought insurgent forces that don't have tanks, and tanks are unsuited to counter-insurgency operations like those in Afghanistan. Or unsuited for battles on long skinny islands.
It’s all about having the right tool for the job. After all, you wouldn’t use a hammer where you need a spear.
And we certainly want to ensure the tip of the spear is as sharp and lethal as ever.
CHEERS TO YOU DUSTY, CRUSTY, GREASE COVERED, SWEATY, BRIGHT-EYED, FUZZY-FACED, HAIRCUT NEEDING, BEER DRINKING, UNDER-RATED, OVER-WORKED, UNDER-PAID, OVER-SEXED, LITTLE SHITS WHO CAN TAKE A TANK AND DO SOME OF THE BEST BATTLEFIELD DAMAGE IN OUR MILITARY. WE THANK YOU.