Three men and a jeep can race along the road, set up, fire one or two missiles, be gone before we can react, then repeat the process a few hundred meters away

Saturday, September 11th, 2021

In Red Storm Rising, Clancy makes the point that “three men and a jeep” can counter an armored breakthrough:

“Every time we break through,” Major Sergetov (the aide to General Alexseyev) observed quietly, “they slow us down and counterattack. This was not supposed to happen.”

“A splendid observation!” Alexseyev (Deputy CINC, Western Theater) snarled, then regained his temper. “We expected that a breakthrough would have the same effect as in the last war against the Germans. The problem is these new light anti-tank missiles. Three men and a jeep… can race along the road set up, fire one or two missiles, be gone before we can react, then repeat the process a few hundred meters away. Defensive fire power was never so strong before, and we failed to appreciate how effectively a handful of rear guard troops can slow down an advancing column. Our security is based on movement…a mobile force under these conditions cannot afford to be slowed down. A simple breakthrough is not enough! We must blast a massive hole in their front and race at least twenty kilometers to be free of these roving missile crews. Only then can we switch over to mobile doctrine.”


  1. Hoyos says:

    Please somebody with more knowledge about this type of thing, isn’t modern armor currently stronger than nearly all man portable anti tank weaponry? I know it goes back and forth obviously but isn’t armor winning this round versus weaponry?

  2. VXXC says:

    The anti-tank mobile team is but one tactic among many, it has long existed and has many counters.

    The best way to think of armor is the heavy cavalry shock arm that it is and the infantry anti-tank missile as the arrow or longbow. Agincourt is instructive as is 1973 Sinai beginning. In both cases the mounted knights [armor] rushed into battle violating sound precepts of having a light screen clear away the troublesome archers first. In both cases the enemy capability was long known but disregarded in the rush, with the same dismal results.

    To answer Hoyos at the present time the anti-tank missiles most in use CAN penetrate armor — see TOW, JAVELIN, MILAN, SPIKE et al…mostly by having tandem warheads but above all by being guided either by fire and forget or command guidance by the operator. This means for up to say 27 seconds for the TOW the operator must keep his crosshairs on the target.

    Now Feldmarschal Clancy is writing at a time when it’s all the rage to think the next Big Balloon going up in Europe will play out like the first 3 days of Sinai in 1973- where violating their own doctrine and indeed all precepts the Israelis arrogantly [in fairness also in a rush] raced their armor up to the Sinai and were done in by the antitank missiles. Once they returned to sound precepts and sent infantry screens to kill said mobile hunter killer teams and prepped with artillery the results normalized and they made progress with armor as usual — to wit the infantry mounted or not and mounted or not reconnaissance along with artillery cleared the path of said squishy smashy humans with anti-tank missiles they made the normal progress.

    So while the anti-tank missile is a very valuable tool and the tactic mentioned by Feld-Marshal_Clancy is valid there are long known counters. In fact the anti-tank missile was preceded by the anti-tank rifle and anti-tank gun and later the Bazooka and PanzerFaust and then RPG et al…the correct tactic is to use Armor as the mounted heavy cavalry they are and the arm of decision on the ground for shock and breakthrough …but they must be supported and often preceded by lightly mounted reconnaissance or infantry — which is nothing new.

    It has been established since WW2 if not before, the argument of lets go nice mobile anti-tank teams — or static teams in bunkers — and refuted in theory and practice many times. In laymen’s terms yes if the enemy is dumb enough not to screen and clear with his own nifty light mobile teams [reconnaissance] and infantry mounted or not, and the enemy doesn’t artillery prep first to smash light mobile anti tank teams then yes the results posited can and have occurred. Part of the debate was budgetary — as nice light jeeps and anti-tank missiles are far less expensive than armor, some of it was also political as the Germans of the FRG politically ruled out maneuver because it meant giving up German soil to USSR hordes…which means the teams would have been in bunkers and trenches, forgoing mobility.

    Which means this 10th grade nonsense would have not worked as advertised because mobility to the rear or really any direction would have been ruled out until certain arsekicking applied=restoring mobility perhaps somewhere before the English Channel.

    Except the French have nukes.
    Except the Soviets knew that.
    Except the Soviets knowing the Americans and French were going to use their nukes once they were losing so soviets at outset planned to nuke the whole thing including said nice zippy anti-tanks on jeeps too then suit up and drive to the English channel, and we found that out in captured documents when the wall fell.

    But it’s good clickbait.

    For the next trick lets discuss why the Torpedo boat of the 1870s meant all capitol warships were obsolete, except they weren’t at all…

  3. Freddo says:

    The latest installment in the Nagorna Karabakh conflict has shown that two men plus a drone can beat three men with a missile. And of course you can field more two men teams than three men teams.

    Military simulations show that once all internal combustion engines have been replaced with electric vehicles single man defense teams will reign supreme as they stop the enemy advance by cutting the cables on recharge stations.

  4. VXXC says:

    I should add that the great 1973 fiasco was corrected after 3 days when the Israelis had mobilized their reserves aka infantry, that they were caught up short almost by surprise in 1973 so the armor rushing to the Sinai was — well it was arrogant in a way but founded in past experience of wars prior — and that sound methods described of combined arms of infantry, artillery, reconnaissance clearing for armor to make it’s shock breakthrough worked fine. So 1973=Panic and Rush by Israelis+ skipping steps based on prior combats when it worked = losing a lot of tanks to [static] missiles, and not being able to rely on air cover aka flying artillery because the Egyptians were operating under a SAM umbrella. The Israelis in a hurry rolled the dice and lost, underestimating the ability of the Egyptians to learn. The rest of the war sound precepts led to a favorable outcome.

    The mighty missile man ground and SAM refuted again in 1982 in Lebanon.

    If you make basic known mistakes by taking shortcuts for whatever reason the likely results are to be judged accordingly and not by whatever Wonder_Weapon [TM] was present at the mistake.

    At Agincourt — where the French dismounted by the way to plod up the hill at the English — there was no order of battle and no plan, simply one mass of knights after another charging exhausted at the English. The Longbow had been established in warfare in France for decades by the way, it wasn’t a wonder weapon that surprised the French.

    They simply tried to bums rush the English with no order of battle and no real plan to overwhelm the English at Agincourt.

    Napoleon as opposed to Bonaparte later made the same mistake of MASS and Columns smashing through all, and it did his army in. Had Napoleon the Emperor stuck to the precepts of General Bonaparte the outcome of certain battles would have changed.

  5. Szopen says:

    VXXC, great reply, thanks! Just one minor, very minor thing: “we found that out in captured documents when the wall fell.” Actually you found that out when Kuklinski, shocked by what he found out in Soviet battle plans, decided to forward them to CIA.

    (No idea why my two previous attempts to post this comment resulted in “404 not found” — is posting Wikipedia links here forbidden or something?)

  6. Sam J. says:

    General Shinseki fired a kinetic weapon at a M1 tank and it went right through it. This was one of the test that led up to purchasing the Stryker armored personnel carrier.

    Because if there’s no way to really protect armor at any cost then you’re better off with something faster, lighter (so you can get more on the battlefield faster) and more maneuverable. There’s no real protection against modern anti-tank weapons. Now it’s said that if you have screening support (men who protect the tank by shooting at anti-tank weapons guys) then you will be protected but really, I mean can you totally protect against guys sneaking around and firing off a round at a tank quickly? No.

  7. VXXC says:

    Freddo there will be a counter to any tactic and there will never be the magic solution. The counter to the cut the power is the same counter as anyone running around in the rear area — security, patrolling.

    And I follow the drone matter closely and am a big fan/worrier.

    “Military Simulations” show, uh, yeah. They show BUY MY STUFF $$$

  8. Albion says:

    The longbow, as has been said here, was well established before the battle of Agincourt. But by that time armourers were shaping breastplates and angling other items of armour to deflect arrows; just as the makers of arrows were experimenting with different arrowheads to try and penetrate. One thing the French employed (perhaps not at Agincourt but certainly later) was a quilted vest worn over armour which could snag and arrow and stop it being deflected off into another knight alongside. The game of development and counter-development was afoot even then.

    But from what I can learn the longbow did not kill the majority of the French knights. A knight, once grounded (and the mud of the battlefield hampered them, without a shadow of doubt after a downpour the night before) was vulnerable to the simple weapon of the hammer. I understand the archers on henry’s side carried a hammer–swords were very expensive and an archer was a working man used to basic tools–and it was a simple job to use the hammer on the fallen French.

    It was brutal and it was basic, and the technology of a helmeted head was unable to deal with a hard blow from a lump of iron.

  9. McChuck says:

    Man portable missiles (Javelin) still defeat any known armor. As for active defense systems, fire three missiles at the same tank, and at least one will get through.

    The Tom Clancy story was describing the Jeep mounted TOW anti-tank missile. It was not man portable, but that’s why it was mounted on a Jeep that could (more or less) hide behind any tree or bush. The Soviet counter to it was to ignore the losses and drive forward until they got into machine gun range. (Sort of like Grant in 1864). At 30 kph, they could theoretically reach the Rhine in 12 hours.

  10. Slovenian Guest says:

    When reading the headline I thought this would be referring to the nuclear Davy Crockett tactical recoilless gun mounted to a Jeep, which had an effective firing range of 2 miles (or 4 km) with a 20-ton blast yield. You really can’t counter that.

    The Taliban must dream of this! :)

  11. Isegoria says:

    I was surprised the find that I’d only mentioned the Davy Crockett once, in passing, here. The Davy Crockett was the smallest and lightest nuclear weapon ever deployed by the U.S. military:

    The W54 warhead used on the Davy Crockett weighed just 51 pounds and was the smallest and lightest fission bomb (implosion type) ever deployed by the United States, with a variable explosive yield of 0.01 kilotons (equivalent to 10 tons of TNT, or two to four times as powerful as the ammonium nitrate bomb which destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995), or 0.02 kilotons-1 kiloton. A 58.6 pound variant — the B54 — was used in the Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM), a nuclear land mine deployed in Europe, South Korea, Guam, and the United States from 1964-1989.

  12. VXXC says:

    Albion is correct on all points.

    I mentioned the Longbow to refute the legend, the hammers in the muck did most of the killing, interestingly in recent film “The King” this is shown, along with the truth that the French dismounted.

    “As for active defense systems, fire three missiles at the same tank, and at least one will get through.”

    McChuck is correct. In fact, this is the practice now of, say, Hezbollah vs Israeli Merkava, one of the harder tanks to kill out there. So the actual tactics that work aren’t 1:1 missile vs tank but many to one tank. Variations include setting off the ERA [Explosive Reactive Armor] and active defenses with RPGs and Recoilless Rifles before the expensive Anti Tank Guided Missiles are employed. The RPG and RR wasn’t going to get through the armor; it’s to strip away the defenses.

    Another certain variation is a massive IED dug into the ground that simply piles so much explosives that no matter what the vehicle it’s flying through the air, including MRAP.

    Another IED variation is the EFP Explosively Formed Projectile, a copper or brass concave disc over the shaped charge that turns the shaped charge tongue of flame into a white hot mass of metal moving at hypervelocity, which cuts through any armor so far.

    Another counter is the 30mm Gatling gun on the A10, which isn’t killing the tank with 1 shot but a burst that chews through the armor. The 25mm on the Brad was able to do so in Desert Storm to Iraqi tanks as well.

  13. Adar says:

    When speaking of “man-portable” they are not speaking of ONE man carrying the entire weapon or apparatus. They are talking of a weapon that can be broken down into pieces to reassemble each time it’s moved.

    Davy Crockett, too, even as deadly as it was [all nukes must be thought of deadly], probably would take out at one instance only several tanks of a Soviet tank battalion deployed.

  14. Goober says:

    Torpedo boats of the Jeune École school of thought were supposed to obsolete all large naval vessels, as well, and yet Missouri fired war shots in 1991, still there. Torpedo boat destroyer (later just shortened to “destroyer”) screens countered the threat, and left any “new school” nation without capital ships essentially defenseless against a nation that did.

    Warfare history has been a laundry list of “complete game changers” that were supposed to change the face of warfare, but that were countered pretty quickly.

    As for light, mobile tank destroyer groups, that’s hardly a new concept and it’s absolutely definitely and without question NOT something that would have somehow “stumped” the Soviet command.

    Anti-tank guns were in use before the start of WWII. The United States had an entire branch of the army dedicated to light, fast, highly mobile tank destroyers. There’s no way that “three men in a jeep with a missile” would have been a surprise to anyone who witnessed “3 men in an M10″ during WWII. Some US TDs could hit 50 MPH. Given this, what is really the difference? One is a missile, one’s a solid shot from a cannon, I suppose, but they’re still LOS, so the effectiveness and the counter to both would be similar. And the counter to AT guns, and TDs was well established doctrine well before Clancy’s war started.

  15. Sam J. says:

    “…there will be a counter to any tactic and there will never be the magic solution…”

    The latest thing is to put active explosive armor on the tanks but…you can’t have infantry to protect the tanks if they are exploding.

    If I remember correctly Hezbollah was using lots of RPG combined with crew machine guns. If troops came up, machine gun, if tanks, RPG. Combined with deep tunnels they could pop up from then scoot the Israelis got their asses handed to them.

    In fact over time defense is getting stronger due to computers. Lord Rees-Mogg and James Dale Davidson predicted this in 80′s in a set of three books they wrote. They predicted this would turn around the centralization that has been going on since the gunpowder revolution which strengthened centralization away from the feudal ages.

    They called this meta-politics and stated that governments and societies are based on the type and technological means of projecting violence.

    A simple example is the rise of cannons and gunpowder. Before it took a long time to invest a castle so there was a lot of small lords about with their small areas in their castles. Cannons blasted the castles to the ground immediately and only those with larger resources could play in that game so territories became bigger and larger.

    This is why I was so adamant that Taiwan could protect themselves from being taken over by China..if they were determined. China could not physically take them if they prepared and refused to give up. To do so they would have to go across a lot of water in boats which could all be sunk by the many different types of intelligent missiles we now have. Combine that with fast roads to machine gun and artillery placements all on the coast and I do not think it possible China could take them.

    Look at this topo map of Taiwan. They could put artillery in the mountains and destroy anyone who landed on the coast and have roads in the mountains to move quickly about the whole Island.

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