They have, in my estimation, never lived up to these expectations.
The reason for this is to engage the odd infantry man with an RPG suddenly appearing from a balcony above you. The down side of having big guns is that there is the need for extra supply chain of munitions.
So, which one is better? There is a saying at armour school: The best tank is the one with the best crew.
Russia organises every year a tank biathlon which is a good indication of the level of training in some areas like driving skills, loading procedures etc but not field repair techniques by the crew.
Generally, in terms of vulnerability the rear of the vehicle is the most vulnerable, followed by the top hence the existence of A and SUsides and finally the front.
Another saying from armour school: You are going to get shafted. For reasons unknown until Russia cooperated with France in creating the Catherine series, it was suicide to fight at night in a Russian tank.
In terms of munitions, both sides are more or less equal with top of the line shells able to achieve hard kills at 5Km.
Russian mm shells come in two pieces propellant and shell whereas NATO mm shells are a single piece so that the loader can load faster. Russian tanks enjoy a small advantage here as the autoloader can sustain a constant rate of fire as opposed to a human loader which will become tired at some point.
Russian designers also came up with a novel design for their 7. Russian guns can also fire guided missiles although the usefulness in the battlefield is still debated as the launching vehicle has to maintain target lock thus be immobile until the missile hits the target. Therefore while in theory a BMP3 can kill a Leopard 2 in practice this is difficult.
However target acquisition usually takes place around 5Km and to fire a laser-guided missile SACLOS you need to be standing still and have a clear line of sight. Which means the enemy can see you. Now ATGMs are fast, but even the fastest needs around 10 seconds to travel to the maximum distance.
Therefore the tank gunner, if it spots the BMP3 early enough can acquire target 1. In theory, a barrage of 30mm can kill a tank if and only if is fired at the most vulnerable areas say rear at very close distances less than 1Km. This is something which no sane IFV commander will do.
As the BMP3 can withstand 30mm ammo only in the front quarter, Russia has beefed up T and Kurganets while replacing the mm cannon with Kornet-EM launchers which have a reported range of 8Km thus giving them a fighting chance against tanks.
Still, an ATGM is a potent weapon at the hands of infantry as they present far less a target than a vehicle and can hide much easier. Combined with proper training — mainly when to fire, at what and where on the target to aim — ATGM teams can be devastating as experienced by Merkava IVs in Lebanon.
Inside the turret now, NATO tanks are generally more ergonomic and with more electronics than Russian tanks. In fact, one can describe the turret of the T as Spartan in comparison.
Once the firing control system is started the gunner in a T can operate the turret, load shells and fire any gun using a total of 2 levers and 5 buttons.
Since the Russians were aware that NATO would not hesitate to use tactical nukes in Eastern Europe, their tanks are designed to operate in an environment of high radiation and EM interference.
Another internal difference is the firing mechanism. Western tanks typically use an electrical system for firing the main gun not sure for M1Ax and Leopard 2s whereas Russian tanks utilise an electrical and a mechanical firing mechanism which provides a failsafe.
From experience it takes a second for a trained gunner to switch from electrical to mechanical firing. While a Bradley weights This allows for the highly risky yet effective if done properly tactic of dropping BMP3s with parachutes while the infantry is in the vehicle. Also all Russian IFVs are designed with the ability to swim across lakes and rivers with little or no preparation BMP3 employs hydro jets for this.
The first of these systems was Shtora and was deployed on the T This system does require sufficient training though to be effective.
More modern systems enjoy a higher degree of automation and can employ hard-kill options even for incoming anti-tank shells. While western countries have developed such systems, their use is almost non-existent in NATO tanks. The only exceptions are the T and M1 which use multi-fuel gas turbines little jet engines.
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