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NATO vs Warsaw Pact

Discussion in 'World History' started by Cunobelin, Jul 3, 2003.

  1. Cunobelin

    Cunobelin I aint no hippo

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    I read recently that the the M1 Abrams was designed by the Americans to negate the numerical superiority of the Warsaw Pact countries. During the say the 80's what numbers of troops and machines would have been facing off against each other from either side? Did the Soviets have overwhelming numbers? How did the various vehicles and soldiers rate against each other?
     
  2. John-LP

    John-LP Libertarian

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    The primary issue was the fact that Soviet Armored units outnumbered NATO armored units, by how much? I don`t know. This is also the reason for the Apache Longbow helicopter.

    EDIT - Oh and it is also the reason for the creation of and continued use of the A-10 Warthog.
     
  3. Vrylakas

    Vrylakas The Verbose Lord

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    The Soviets gave up in the 1960s trying to match Western technological abilities in tanks, and went for simply numerical superiority. By design therefore in the 1970s the WTO had a 10-1 ratio of tanks in Europe compared to NATO, which led U.S. President Reagan in the early 1980s to install short and medium range tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe.
     
  4. Cunobelin

    Cunobelin I aint no hippo

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    Did the NATO tech really outclass the Soviet that much? I mean the T-72, T-80 tanks were pretty solid machines when put up against the American equivelant at the time werent they?
     
  5. MadScot

    MadScot Brandy's back!

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    @Cunobelin:

    from this site it appears that NATO Secretary-General Joseph Luns did not feel NATO had much of a technological edge in 1982:
    Force comparisons for 1985:
    Warsaw Pact 3,875 aircraft to NATO 2,200
    Warsaw Pact 29,000 tanks to NATO 9,770

    (with usual caveat on lies, damn lies and statistics)
     
  6. Richard III

    Richard III Duke of Gloucester

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    I think this debate is a little complicated to just pop into a thread, actually; the numbers of soviet tanks were constantly debated, for instance, since "WTO" could mean up to the Urals, or up to Byelorussia, depending on your definition. Just one point among many; and different systems had different layers of superiority; for the early 1980s before full deployment of MLRS, Russian tube and rocket artillery was widely seen as superior, for example (although C3 weaknesses may have negated that advantage). And there's the whole debate about "what is a tank?" which coloured force assessments for decades depending on how you felt about BMPs.

    While they were clearly right to do it in the end, military analysts had a tendency to count everything they could as soviet armor, precisely because overestimating the soviet numerical advantage made it easier to get needed cash from cheap approrpraitions committees...

    Also, the Pershing and other theatre nukes were deployed to also give a "limited MAD" capability to counter Red IRBM or SRBM strikes in the event of a more localized nuclear war so that a full ICBM strike wouldn't be the only alternative; I think it's a mistake to look at the deployment as simply being the counter to soviet conventional forces since the US aimed to counter those as well. Nuclear AND conventional doctrine under Reagan was designed to match and beat the Sovs capability for capability rather than putting all eggs in one basket.

    But, all you post-cold war kidlets, virtually every weapon system now in service has a cold-war, anti-commie pedigree; it takes years to get a weapon designed, built and in service. The A-10 was considered a slightly venerable beast before I left high school in 1988, the Apache was the model for "Blue Thunder" in the movie of the same name in May, 1983 and the M-1 is so old that Sir John Hackett's absurd "Third World War" book - written in 1977 - features "XM-1s" as the MBT for US forces throughout the theatre.

    R.III
     
  7. MadScot

    MadScot Brandy's back!

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    RIII:

    Hackett's book does illustrate one aspect of the original question. The only way to write a semi-plausible account of a war in europe that didn't either go nuclear (ignoring the limited exchange he includes) or end up with the red army on the channel was to suppose a significant expansion in NATO capabilities and strengths above those in place in the late 1970s. (IIRC, he added an entirely new British Corps to NORTHAG, I can't recall what else; I think some of the NATO new weapon systems were put in service rather swiftly too).

    In terms of early 80s forces:
    GSFG was mainly a T-72 force, IIRC. Some soviet follow on forces had T-64s (which were probably better than the 72s). Most of the Pact was still using T-62s or worse. The Russians had about 33% MICVs, BMP-1s of various types. The rest were mainly BTRs of various vintages, with the 60 dominating. Pact forces mainly used BTR-60s.
    Most NATO central front strength resided in the Bundeswehr, mainly Leopard Is and Marders. US forces had the execrable M-60 and M-113s (being replaced by M-1s and M-2/3s), BAOR was a Chieftain/FV432 force. Other minor NATO allies used some mixture of those equipments. The French army was numerous, but French political commitment suspect (they had pulled out of the SACEUR command structure under de Gaulle).

    Comparing the various equipments, I'd have to say the Germans probably had the best of the bunch. Neither UK nor US forces had MICVs; the Cheiftain, while well armoured and armed was a slow tank, and the M-60 was just plain bad.

    I'd agree with RIII that soviet artillery was powerful, but probably not as flexible as the NATO forces' was.

    More importantly, Soviet doctrine was probably more coherent than NATO's. The Pact doctrine was about doing; NATO was pretty much focused on stopping the other side, not doing much itself. That was almost a surrender of the initiative before a shot was fired.

    Perhaps the most important change in the 80s was not the new kit which was introduced, but the change in NATO mindset that came with it. M-1s, M-2s, etc, in the old doctrine, would not have been as much use.
     
  8. CruddyLeper

    CruddyLeper Unworshipped Deity

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    :goodjob:

    The reason for the M1 was not so much the Warsaw Pact - it was the ineffectiveness of the M60. Local superiority on the ground varied maybe 5:1 Fulda Gap area (US and Germans) to perhaps 15:1 North Germany (UK).

    M1 wasn't the first idea - XMBT70 was a joint US-German project that nosedived. The M1 took a lot longer to get into service because of it - but I'd say it was worth the wait.
     
  9. Cunobelin

    Cunobelin I aint no hippo

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    But did the M1 see service during the Cold War? I thought it was first used in the Gulf
     
  10. MadScot

    MadScot Brandy's back!

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    M-1 was in service with units in both Germany and the US in the 1980s. GW1 was the first time it was used 'in anger'.
     
  11. Cunobelin

    Cunobelin I aint no hippo

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    How does the M1-A1 rate against the T-80 or even the T-90? ( i think thats the latest version, correct me if im wrong)
     
  12. MadScot

    MadScot Brandy's back!

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    Well, with no combat experience with T-80s or later it's a bit of a guess, rather than an assessment. Add to that there's not been any engagements where the M-1 has had opponents of any great skill, and you could argue a bit about it.

    Personally, I would expect any of the current western tank generation (M-1A2, Challenger II, Leopard II or Leclerc) to have better fire control than their Russian equivalent - which is probably the T-80U or T-90S. I'd expect the Western tanks to be a bit better protected, except perhaps the Leclerc which is a lighter tank IIRC. The Russian tanks still present a lower profile, which is an advantage to them. Everyone is using 120-125mm guns now, which I would expect to have similar characteristics. The Russians seem to be using a lot of ERA these days, but against AP rounds those are probably not so effective.

    My opinion is that the western tanks do outclass their Russian equivalent, but not decisively so. I certainly wouldn't expect them to overcome 3-1 odds or anything like that; 2-1 would be pushing it rather.
     
  13. Cunobelin

    Cunobelin I aint no hippo

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    What kind of tanks were the Americans facing in the GW1 and 2? Did they not come up against any russian made T-80's? I thought the Iraqis got most of their military hardware from Russia
     
  14. MadScot

    MadScot Brandy's back!

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    I don't think they faced anything more frightening than some T-72s. The Russians had a policy of exporting the 72s but not T-64s and T-80s. Additionally Russian exports were often of an inferior version of the home equipment. So I doubt they were even 'top of the line' T-72s.

    More importantly, the Iraqis were tactically and operationally rather inept. It wouldn't be a fair comparison between the tanks themselves.

    With capable crews and decent leadership even T-72s should have made a better showing than the Iraqis managed.
     
  15. Cunobelin

    Cunobelin I aint no hippo

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    Did any of the Russian models come equipped with depleted uranium rounds or is that only on the coalition side?
    I heard that the T-90 used a sort of ceramic composite armour, is that true?
     
  16. MadScot

    MadScot Brandy's back!

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    Try this site for more details on the "FSU" tanks.

    In summary - no T-80 variant is quoted as using APFSDU rounds, just standard APFSDS types. But they do have a through-the-barrel ATGM, the AT-8 Songster, which is a capability the western tanks don't. Later variants use the AT-11 Sniper instead.

    It also states that the T-80 entered production in 1978, and so is a true contemporary of the current western Chobham armoured tanks.

    The T-90 seems to have pretty much the same offensive capabilities, but better defences - in terms of more/better ERA and some kind of ATGM detection/deception system. Still no indication of Chobham-type armour though.

    I'd take the claims for the Black Eagle MBT with a large pinch of salt. After all, it's an experimental prototype, nothing more. Given the state of the Russian defence budget I'd doubt it'll ever see service.
     
  17. CruddyLeper

    CruddyLeper Unworshipped Deity

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    Very important point - the decisive factor in combat when gun vs armour ratings are close is crew training. The M1-A1 is the better tank, but in inexperienced hands it can still be vulnerable.

    Also, standard AT ammo for Russki tanks is DU. It's not a material that's in short supply in Russia - quite the reverse.

    The missile rounds (of which only a half dozen or so are carried) are there to offset accuracy problems and lack of penetration with DU rounds at long range.
     
  18. John-LP

    John-LP Libertarian

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    Right, better training, maintenance, and command could have made for a better fight in GW1, however I don`t think the outcome would have been much different. The problem in GW2 and the way most militaries still using old Soviet armor is that they place them is static defense positions which make them easy to pick off from a distance and from the air. With the M1`s superior fire control and range, added to the ability of air power to dwindle enemy numbers, the old Soviet armor has never really been given a fair match to determine it`s exact effectiveness against it`s Western counterpart(s).
     
  19. Cunobelin

    Cunobelin I aint no hippo

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    Im guessing that during the cold war russian tank crews were pretty well trained so they probably would have been a good match for the NATO forces. So if if it was a conventional battle between the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO would the Soviets have simply overwhelmed NATO and conquered most of the continent I assume. Also what were the chances of both sides going nuclear if an attack by the Soviets was made in central europe? would it almost definitely have gone nuclear or would the fear of MAD have discouraged either side?
     
  20. The Art of War

    The Art of War [none]

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    here's my assessment of the situation. I got really interested in this subject about a year ago...here's what i'd figure.

    I think that the NATO forces would have won, because of their superior air power. they had less, but they had much better. the soviets, at the time, were using mainly MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-24 Floggers, the -21 being built in the late '50s as the MiG-8 (i think..). In comparison, NATO had the F-14 (w/Phoenix missiles..which are EXTREMELY long range Air-Air Missiles), the F-15 (superior to every soviet fighter in the '80s), the F-4 and F-111 Wild Weasels..anti Surface-Air Missiles battery fighters, and that's just the US side. The UK had the Harrier, which proved its usage in the Falkland War, the ground attack Tornado. The French had the Mirage series, which were better than the MiGs for the most part.

    The most important part of the air power were the AWACS birds, and thier ability to pickup fighters far out enough for superior NATO fighters to intercept and destroy. Not only this, but the USSR didn't have equal AWACS ability, which was comprised of about 11 modified Bear recon planes modified for AWACS. The Bear AWACS would've been outta the fighter within the first twenty-four hours. NATO air power would have won nine times outta ten.

    Also, you must take in to account that by the late '80s, the soviets had removed a good number of their best troops off the NATO/Warsaw line and put them in Afghanistan. Not a big loss in a lot of ways, except that the normal Soviet trooper got half the training of a normal NATO trooper. The elite troop was what would have kept the Soviets going. With their air-power virtually gone, they'd have to rely on their tanks, which would also fall prey the the tank hunters. Tanks include APCs also.

    The last thing NATO needed to worry about the the GIUK line, Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom, a "wall" of anti-submarine sea units made for interdicting a Russian nuclear sub or attack sub. This, too, wouldn't have been a huge problem, i don't think. it would depend on if the USSR tried to take Iceland, which I don't see as feasible, but it would've been and still is, possible. The UK and US were primed for a sub-hunting mission, what with the UK's three helicopter/VSTOL carriers, along with the US' sub hunting frigates. Overall, it's very possible, had the war been just conventional, that the NATO forces, through airpower, would win.
    You must also consider the fact that the people were getting restless because of Afghanistan, and the whole perestroika thing...i mean, 3/5ths of the USSR were peasants. It wasn't the super-power we thought it was. Annually, spending budgets were falsley reported to prevent the anger of the Politburo. If you have any more questions, ask away!

    :goodjob:
     

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