On the topic of tank size

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Historically, tanks have gotten larger because they've always been made with just enough armor to protect them from most weapons and a gun just big enough to penetrate most targets. As each side works to get a step up on the other, they need larger tanks to carry bigger guns with better penetration and they need bigger engines to move all that gun and armor.

But that's assuming you need a gun to penetrate armor, but you don't. You can penetrate armor with HE or HEAT warheads, and since they don't require high impact velocities to be effective, you can launch them with methods other than cannons. For example: Rockets/missiles (ballistic or cruise), mortars (I know, very close to a gun), gravity bombs, glider bombs, etc. Or you can even not launch them at all (landmines).

With ^, you can penetrate extremely thick armor while carrying much less than an entire cannon. There's only two downsides to these types of weapons:

1) The ammunition (including propellant) is quite large, and thus it is difficult to carry much of it.
2) These weapons are more vulnerable to spaced armor and active defense systems than kinetic perpetrators.

With active defense technology improving, this looks bad for rockets and good for cannons, but we could see great improvements in decoys, jammers, etc. to combat these systems

But, what I would like to mainly discuss on this thread is how much of an impact nano-themite will have on this balance, because I've heard it'll be a large improvement to today's explosives, and the technology would likely affect not only the size of the HE/HEAT warhead, but also the rocket propellants as well (and I'm guessing it'll also affect gunpowder too).
http://www.sigmalabs.com/high-energy-explosives-and-pro/

Of course, rail guns could also have an effect.

In general, if smaller weapons become more effective at taking out larger, tougher targets, then the concept of the tank may disappear, leaving vehicles which are more like modern destroyers, in that it's not what armor they have, but what detection, defense, and attack systems they hold (also stealth, speed, and affordability are desirable).
Note: Large naval vessels have evolved in such a way because the balance between rocket and cannon fell strongly into the rocket's favor, but the cannon's downfall wasn't only due to size and weight, but mostly due to range restrictions.
Edited by Engineer on 2/3/2014 11:33 AM PST
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02/03/2014 09:36 AMPosted by Engineer
Historically, tanks have gotten larger because they've always been made with just enough armor to protect them from most weapons and a gun just big enough to penetrate most targets. As each side works to get a step up on the other, they need larger tanks to carry bigger guns with better penetration and they need bigger engines to move all that gun and armor.

But that's assuming you need a gun to penetrate armor, but you don't. You can penetrate armor with HE or HEAT warheads, and since they don't require high impact velocities to be effective, you can launch them with methods other than cannons. For example: Rockets/missiles (ballistic or cruise), mortars (I know, very close to a gun), gravity bombs, glider bombs, etc. Or you can even not launch them at all (landmines).

With ^, you can penetrate extremely thick armor while carrying much less than an entire cannon. There's only two downsides to these types of weapons:

1) The ammunition (including propellant) is quite large, and thus it is difficult to carry much of it.
2) These weapons are more vulnerable to spaced armor and active defense systems than kinetic perpetrators.

With active defense technology improving, this looks bad for rockets and good for cannons, but we could see great improvements in decoys, jammers, etc. to combat these systems

But, what I would like to mainly discuss on this thread is how much of an impact nano-themite will have on this balance, because I've heard it'll be a large improvement to today's explosives, and the technology would likely affect not only the size of the HE/HEAT warhead, but also the rocket propellants as well (and I'm guessing it'll also affect gunpowder too).
http://www.sigmalabs.com/high-energy-explosives-and-pro/

Of course, rail guns could also have an effect.

In general, if smaller weapons become more effective at taking out larger, tougher targets, then the concept of the tank may disappear, leaving vehicles which are more like modern destroyers, in that it's not what armor they have, but what detection, defense, and attack systems they hold (also stealth, speed, and affordability are desirable).
Note: Large naval vessels have evolved in such a way because the balance between rocket and cannon fell strongly into the rocket's favor, but the cannon's downfall wasn't only due to size and weight, but mostly due to range restrictions.


If we were able to field a railgun (i believe we cant right now because the energy required to fire them is ridiculously high) would we have any armor capable of defending from it short of a heavily fortified bunker (even then...)? I mean, in the late 2000's when the Navy tested out a railgun the projectile reached mach 7, do we have anything that can stop a projectile at that speed or will even the best armors crumble???
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02/03/2014 06:48 PMPosted by Luftwaffe
I mean, in the late 2000's when the Navy tested out a railgun the projectile reached mach 7, do we have anything that can stop a projectile at that speed or will even the best armors crumble???

I would say that a rail gun and accompanying capacitor with a limited size and weight would be limited in how much kinetic energy they could put into a projectile. Sure, improvements in gun design would increase this limit, but simply having a rail gun does not automatically mean you're going to penetrate everything. There's hobby rail guns that couldn't penetrate skin. That prototype I'm sure wouldn't fit in the turret of any tank.

But yeah, the general idea is that if weapons capable of penetrating thick armor become smaller, the weapons become more cost effective to field. As anti-armor weapons become more cost-effective to field, less people want to spend the resources to field armor, since the enemy has to spend much less resources to destroy that armor.

But weapon vs. armor wasn't really what I was discussing in the OP. I was discussing weapon vs. weapon. Specifically, the anti-tank gun (specifically when armed with kinetic penetrater rounds) vs. the anti-tank rocket (/missile/uav bomber/etc.).
The balance between these weapons is relevant to tank size because the minimal size of the gun is one of the limiting factors of the size of the tank, especially volume (since weight is mainly determined by armor).
Edited by Engineer on 2/3/2014 7:56 PM PST
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Off topic:
In SC2, Marines shoot down aircraft with their gun.

Obviously, not many people today shoot down jets with a rifle, but...

Could a platoon of cyborg or robotic soldiers armed with extremely high velocity sniper rifles (with armor-piercing discarding sabot ammunition) reliably shoot down aircraft at high altitudes if relayed target position information from a radar system?

For reference, here is a real usable antiaircraft machine gun:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oerlikon_35_mm_twin_cannon

As you can see, the barrel is over 10 feet long, the ammunition is over 3 pounds, and it's effective at altitudes over 2 miles up.
So, obviously, this gun is too large to carry, but a version half the size might be manageable, but would it still be of much use?
Edited by Engineer on 2/3/2014 8:12 PM PST
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02/03/2014 09:36 AMPosted by Engineer
http://www.sigmalabs.com/high-energy-explosives-and-pro/


That does seem interesting, also you said it was looking bad for rockets/missiles but that may only be the case for certain vehicles/infantry applications. The new hypersonic cruise missiles (not sure if still in development or production) however are looking mighty scary.

EDIT

Amazing how humanity undergoes all this advancement for the sole purpose of killing others/retaining power. I'm not a pacifist but the world of swords and shields are just 1,000,000 times safer than this new world of projectiles and explosives.
Edited by Luftwaffe on 2/5/2014 3:48 PM PST
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02/05/2014 03:46 PMPosted by Luftwaffe
I'm not a pacifist but the world of swords and shields are just 1,000,000 times safer than this new world of projectiles and explosives.

True, but I console myself as a aspiring weapons designer with the knowledge that in the long term the technology will be used for both military and civilian purposes, and that getting blown up ends the pain a lot quicker than getting an arm chopped off (usually). If not, then at least the fighting is more spread out so that all the gore isn't as often right in your face.

It's a two-sided subject. Nuclear bombs could be the cause of human extinction (hopefully the doomsday preppers will save us on that one) and their testing has caused long lasting environmental damage, but you can also say that nuclear weapons have killed the least compared to guns, explosives, swords, and spears, all while (thus far) preventing WWIII and leading to a new form of power, and potentially a second one far better (fusion).
Edited by Engineer on 2/5/2014 8:13 PM PST
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02/05/2014 03:46 PMPosted by Luftwaffe
sole purpose of killing others/retaining power

This is another point. Militaries could be viewed as just large scale law enforcement. Law enforcement is often criticized for its behavior, but isn't often criticized for its procurement of tools. Could we then treat the military the same?
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02/05/2014 03:46 PMPosted by Luftwaffe
The new hypersonic cruise missiles (not sure if still in development or production) however are looking mighty scary.

It'll most definitely be difficult, but I'm pretty much sure its possible to build something that can shoot them down.

Edit: Wait, didn't we sort of already discuss this in the "military" thread, and weren't you rather optimistic about weapons development in that thread, which you wrote (started)?
Edited by Engineer on 2/5/2014 8:39 PM PST
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[The following was cut from my other thread and posted here instead.]
It's not all doom and gloom for the plus-sized gun-armed ground vehicles. Delivering rounds by cannon and not rocket or UAV will almost always be cheaper per round fired. The question is, with drones already flying for surveillance, the emergence of laser weapons which could possibly replace rockets with cheaper laser ramjets ( http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a442467.pdf ), and the low cost of launching glider bombs from unmanned blimps, will it still be reasonable to use 155 mm cannons to demolish houses and saturate an area with with frag? I'll let you decide.
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02/05/2014 08:20 PMPosted by Engineer
02/05/2014 03:46 PMPosted by Luftwaffe
The new hypersonic cruise missiles (not sure if still in development or production) however are looking mighty scary.

It'll most definitely be difficult, but I'm pretty much sure its possible to build something that can shoot them down.

Edit: Wait, didn't we sort of already discuss this in the "military" thread, and weren't you rather optimistic about weapons development in that thread, which you wrote (started)?


Did I? my bad sir.
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It'll most definitely be difficult, but I'm pretty much sure its possible to build something that can shoot them down.

Edit: Wait, didn't we sort of already discuss this in the "military" thread, and weren't you rather optimistic about weapons development in that thread, which you wrote (started)?


Did I? my bad sir.

Well, I mean discussing whether or not military research makes the world better or not, not discussing hyper-sonic missiles, sorry if there was confusion.
Edited by Engineer on 2/10/2014 7:12 AM PST
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