Saturday, May 27, 2017

Malaysian Army scales up for the anti-armour fight

Show of force: Soldiers from 7 RRD on parade earlier this year, with this contingent armed wall-to-wall with RPG-7 launchers. Photo: Malaysian Army News.

The strength of a conventional army rests with its defence manpower who are optimised for war.

Trained, organised, equipped and supported for land warfare, the table of organisation and equipment (TOE) for a conventional army is also its weakness.

Army units cannot easily change the way they are armed or structured. Unit commanders cannot, for example, decide to dump a weapon and field another in its place, or reorganise their men under another hierarchical structure.

Such organisational inertia means that operational deployments for most army units are come-as-you-are affairs. You go to war with what you have, and hope that the training and capability of one's armaments, and fighting spirit of the troops, will outperform the enemy.

The history of warfare contains many examples of armies that were forced to modify their TOE in response to stalemates on the battlefield that had exacted enormous costs in terms of manpower, equipment and also morale.

During WW1, the German army's StoƟtruppen - stormtroopers - made a name for themselves as shock troops who were the force of choice for assaults upon fortified trench systems defended by wire and MGs, and covered by artillery fire.

At the Battle of Stalingrad in WW2, infantry and mechanised infantry units were found ineffective during fighting in built-up areas. As a result, German pioneers (i.e. combat engineers) were organised into assault units. Their TOE included weapons such as flamethrowers. Instead of bolt-action rifles that were standard issue in normal infantry battalions, the assault troops went into action liberally armed with machine pistols and grenades to maximise the volume of suppressive fire that fire teams could bring to bear.

And as the Red Army closed in on Berlin during the closing days of WW2 in Europe, the Soviets turned the tables on the Wehrmacht by unleashing assault troops on a massive scale. Troops organised into "shock armies" broke the back of the once-powerful German Army, which had been bled white by years of combat on multiple fronts.

More recently in Lebanon, the forces of Hezbollah that clashed with the Israel Defense Forces appear to have found a reply to the armour-heavy IDF. Light infantry armed with anti-tank weapons (issued at a scale well above that for a normal infantry unit), covered by fire teams with automatic, belt- or magazine-fed MGs and grenade launchers have proven hard to eradicate when fighting from prepared positions with numerous secondary and tertiary fire positions.

In our neighbourhood, the Malaysian Army has made clear how its infantry could face an armoured threat: With a profusion of anti-tank weapons, backed by a concept of operations for delaying, disrupting and destroying armour-heavy units.

Photo: Malaysian Army News.

Soldiers from Batalion ke 7 Rejimen Renjer DiRaja (Mekanise) paraded earlier this year armed with plenty of RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers. This instance was probably more for the camera, because any infantry unit thus armed would tip to the side of diminishing returns in terms of the sustainability of anti-tank firepower. 

The reason for this is simple: The RPG-7 is a not a single-shot weapon. This means that the weapon's efficiency (as opposed to effectiveness, which is contingent on the warhead, gunner's skill, effect of crosswind and distance to target, among other factors) is optimised with a supply of additional grenades to sustain the expected rate of fire discharged during one or multiple contacts.

What is clear to anyone who has been following the Tentera Darat Malaysia's (TDM) modernisation is the Malaysian army's increasing awareness of, and response to, emerging armoured threats.

Even if the parade by 7 RRD was intended for the camera, one takeway is the TDM's awareness that the normal TOE may need to be tweaked in order to break the momentum of an armoured thrust.

With light MGs and automatic grenade launchers issued at section level, backed by RPGs to do the heavy-hitting, a Malaysian army section can quite possibly give a good account of itself against an armoured opponent. The density of anti-tank fire that a Malaysian army section can bring to the fight has increased markedly; more so if RPGs were issued at a higher than normal rate during a hot-war.

Show-and-tell: Introduction to the Malaysian Army's Pakistan-made RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher in 2007. Ten years on, Malaysian infantry battalions have made noticeable improvements in their ability to deal with armour-heavy opponents.

In the 12 seconds or so that it takes a trained RPG gunner to extract a fresh round, remove the protective plastic end caps, insert the round and align it with the grove of the launcher, cock and shoulder the weapon, take aim and discharge the round, the other members of the section can lay down suppressive fire to make open hatch operations a hazardous undertaking.

Moving up the firepower scale, the TDM's inventory of heavy anti-tank guided weapons and anti-material rifles is also noteworthy.

Even without the fancy stormtrooper label, the Malaysians have everything it takes to orientate their infantry for the anti-armour fight.

If you need an example of a thinking soldier, look north.


Benjamin said...

I find it very unreasonable of them to say that.

Zulu475 said...

The rpg is ubiquitous, and the TDM has in their inventory other ATGM, Kornet, Metis M etc. As proven in yemen and syria, mdt has become vunerable, hopefully, SAF take note and take measures to counter it, btw, what have SAF has in inventory for a like of rpg type munition to an infantry? Afaik its spike and matador. SAF looks like lacking in these dept of atgm.

Locust said...

Lacking in what sense? Certainly not in terms of numbers.Type? We are not a zoo. Spike (there are many variants) alone is a huge deterrent and one of the best out there. There are indeed measures to counter such weapons. And Saf has taken note. Just see the Leopard 2sg for instance. There is no need to show what we have in times of peace.

sepecatgr1a said...

For every effective weapon type there is also a counter.

ATGMs such as Kornet, Metis M etc are proven MBT killers.
Even modern MBTs such as L2SGs are extremely vulnerable to these ATGMs.

For the individual MBT, a system to warn the crew that it is being targeted by an antitank system is the first step to take immediate action to counter an antitank system. I believe MBTs in the region have laser warning receivers. Another counter is an Active Protection System. I do not see or know if L2SGs have either.

Combined arms tactics also help mitigate against ATGM teams.

So the rationale to also have sufficent SUSTAINED suppressive firepower available to not only the MBT ( canister & airburst rounds ) but accompanying combined arms assets such as infantry and artillery.
Suppressive fire is an effective counter especially against ATGM teams which require the operator to keep the sight on the target all the way to impact. But new fire & forget ATGMs such as Javelin are much more difficult to counter. I believe that small numbers of Javelin are in use in our part of the world.

Locust said...

You can argue ad infinitum on the effectiveness of anti tank weapons versus tanks. If you got the money, you will buy a tank and then an anti tank weapon. Sure there have been instances of tank kills - the media loves such stories. But the anti tank weapons has not rendered the tank extint or tank loss ratios (due to anti tank weapons) prove so. New armour and passive and active protection systems increases tanks survivability. Tactics and informatiom awareness (from a networked force) play large roles as well. Singaporeans see a tank as a node in a web of shooters and sensors.

I hardly think SAF would reveal such protection systems which could impact tactics!

Benjamin said...

I wonder does the SAF use active protection system. I heard that those are good at protecting armoured vehicles

chocolate said...

to effectively hit the tanks, the RPG-7 user need to get really close up to the tanks, so close that most likely, they would have been engaged by armored infantry, while the tanks would have provide fire support from a distance behind and turn most of these RPG-7 heros into swiss cheese.

Unknown said...

keyword is close distance. Malaysian terrain is close distance. Good luck.

Bujang Senang said...

The RPG-29 has since been supplemented by other rocket-propelled systems, such as the RPG-30 and RPG-32.

The RPG-29 has been implicated in an attack on the British Challenger 2 tanks in Iraq, as well as in attacks on Israeli Merkava tanks in Lebanon, which breached the tanks' armour and in some cases injured or killed members of the crew.