The Death of the Tank

A constant theme on this website (and in my fiction) has been that we need to re-think land warfare.

I have seen the Highway of Death in Kuwait and southern Iraq, it’s sobering to see first-hand how easily heavy armored formations can be converted into mortal scrap. I thought then, and I think now, that I would never want to be a tanker. Viewing all those destroyed vehicles probably led to my first trilogy, where a new brand of infantry rules the battlefield- the armored infantry.

Now, this is not a new idea. Heinlein in Starship Troopers was the first to describe this type of future battlefield, where soldiers in powered suits led the fight. Then came Haldeman’s The Forever War, a deliberate ideological answer to Heinlein’s book.

I extrapolated the concept in my books, and one of my overriding thoughts was that tanks are ultimately vulnerable. Yes, they are big, heavily armored and uniquely threatening, but they are simply too vulnerable to infantry with advanced weaponry, or air power in all of its forms.

We got a taste of this in the Gulf, a steaming cup of bitterness in Armenia, and now a blaring large-screen TV full of death in the Ukraine.

Friends, the age of the tank is drawing to a close. The cycle of action/countermeasures really has reached its zenith, and the range of anti-armor weapons has finally eclipsed the ability of tank manufacturers to overcome them.

What do I mean.

Well, in the Ukraine we are seeing heavy armored formations being smashed and stopped by infantry employing sophisticated disposable anti-tank weapons, along with loitering drones that do the same thing.

Some would say that the Russians are using lousy Soviet designed tanks that blow apart at the slightest provocation. This is true, but the wider point is that these same weapons would be effective on good Western designs as well. Do you seriously think that potential adversaries aren’t taking notes about the Ukraine? That they aren’t making their own versions of the Javelin or the Switchblade?

I am never one to underestimate an enemy. Yes, the M1 Abrams is an extremely well-designed and hard to kill beast. No, it does not come apart at the seams like a T-80. But it is still vulnerable to a top-hit or a mobility kill. A destroyed tank is a destroyed tank, period.

What will be needed on the future battlefield will be maneuver forces that are small, fast and hardened. That will operate seamlessly with AI, that have the range and endurance to cope with any threat. Forces that have their own organic drone swarms, forces that are dispersed yet can deliver mass at will.

What am I describing? I am talking about true armored infantry, people inside of armored, powered suits matched to their own artificial intelligences.

The present battlefield is already awash with drones, cyber threats, massed artillery, air power in all forms, mines, the works. The ingredients are there to make a very impermissible environment for maneuver forces, especially the tank.

Imagine if the Ukrainian light infantry (who have done a tremendous job) had powered suits, such as described by Heinlein? Or Haldeman? Or me?

The massed artillery wouldn’t mean shit. Neither would the tank. Or land mines. Obstacles. Drones.

What do I mean.

A scenario. Alright, imagine an artillery battery servicing their weapon some ten klicks to the rear. They are pouring shells into some town.

An armored infantry squad, some twelve soldiers in powered suits, avoids the attacker’s concentrations and obstacles via real-time drone intel and they bound past the forward trace of the bad guys. They do not need to mass for the assault, each soldier is separated by a kilometer or so, they communicate via encrypted text on their helmet’s HUD. They simply have an objective and a time.

They make their own way to the battery, the squad leader’s AI helps him/her to manage the attack plan as his troopers converge upon the Objective Rally Point from every direction, helpfully randomized by each suit’s AI. They arrive and mass for the final assault. Their accuracy and precision is literally inhuman, but the killing will be of their own accord.

The squad assaults. Each trooper is assigned a target, their onboard computers helpfully designate fires and targeting priorities. They fall upon the battery like fire ants, within seconds the guns fall silent, their operators butchered, the tubes blackened and bent. As they attack, their AIs record everything for later BDA and intel. There is no need for a leader to scratch his/her head about Actions on the Objective, his AI gives him a checklist and sees to it that he completes it within seconds.

The battery destroyed, the team exfils to all points of the compass. They are hopeless to track and hard to kill.

Once back at FOB X, the squad downloads the data and they recharge their powered suits. They do an After Action Review, aided by AI, and they plan the next assault. Rinse, wash, repeat.

This. This is what future warfare will look like. Lighting attacks by rapier-like forces against logistics and combat formations.

Where does the tank fit in?

It doesn’t. A squad of armored infantry, each equipped with smart munitions and drones, could bring a tank battalion to a screeching halt.

Regular light infantry is doing this right now in the Ukraine. Imagine giving them powered suits, such as described in my books.

Heavy armored formations no longer make sense in peer-on-peer conflicts.

The death of the tank is upon us.


Terror. It doesn’t work.

Why do I say this today.

Because as a former professional officer in the US Army I am confused and disgusted by what I’m seeing in the Ukraine today.


The whole point in engaging in armed conflict is to further your nation-state’s aims by using violence. It is the purest bullshit that “violence never solves anything,” because it does. To paraphrase Josef Stalin, “No man, no problem.” However, when you remove the man, his community remembers. It matters how you remove the man (or woman). I’ll come back to this point in a moment.

The ultra violence we are all seeing in this most disastrous of wars is reminiscent of World War Two for a reason; ie it seems as if the Red Army of 1941 has been dropped out of history and onto the world’s front pages. Indiscriminate shelling of cities, deliberate targeting of civilians, “filtration” of populations and removal of entire communities NKVD style, the opening of “requalification camps” for teachers in captured territories, hell, even chucking people into wells.

Any student of the Second World War will recognize these tactics, they are old-school hallmarks of Soviet occupation. They are meant to deliberately terrorize and cow the population. Period. To a certain extent, these tactics work, but only in the short-term.

I’ll ask you a question. Why are the Ukrainians fighting like weasels for their homes, besides the obvious?

Because the Ukrainians remember occupation and the terror campaigns of the 1930’s, when millions died under Soviet rule. These campaigns to force the Ukrainian peasantry to accept force collectivization worked, in the short-term. Long term? Not so much. At this point there can be little doubt that the Ukrainian population as a whole is willing to put up a tremendous fight against Russian forces, and any idiot can see the result; very, very heavy casualties amongst the invading forces.

I won’t say that Western forces haven’t tried terror before, because we absolutely have. The examples are too numerous to count. I’ll cite one, the deliberate targeting of the civilian infrastructure and population of Germany in World War Two. We burned the German cities to the ground, we killed hundreds of thousands of German civilians in cities like Dresden, Berlin, Düsseldorf, etc.

The result? A strengthened Nazi party, an SS, Wehrmacht and Volksturm that fought like hell until the last day of the war, and in some cases past the official end date. See the fight in Aschaffenburg, to name but one example. True, the Nazi leadership hanged a few people to concentrate the minds of the locals, but many fought from their own accord.

They fought to the bitter end because of terror, the effects of which were studied after the war. The strategic bombing campaign in Germany was ruled a net loss and huge resource sink because it failed in its aim: to sap the civilian population’s resolve and will to fight.

As a result of experience, Western armies no longer rely upon civilian-focused terror. Not because we’re nice guys, but because it doesn’t work.

If you kill a bunch of teachers and pregnant women, resolve hardens amongst the population to make the fight as painful as possible for an invading force.

It matters how you remove the combatant, the man who is giving you problems. Civilians will accept the loss of a soldier, although they will grieve his death. Everyone understands that when you sign a contract, you are putting your one and only ass on the line. It’s the same with partisans.

What people don’t understand is when you kill seemingly innocent bystanders, especially when it’s as obvious as the nose on your face that you did it on purpose. Not a good look to dump a missile on a train station that was painted with “for the children.” Counter-productive to drop some random guy on a bicycle. Stupid to pop a mayor, and her family, and dump them into a hole.

These types of actions make even the biggest milquetoast think “this could happen to me.” This supposed weenie will summon whatever courage they possess and reach for a rifle or support local forces, regular or irregular.

So, if you’re wondering why the Ukrainians are fighting like hell, then look no further than the dead of Bucha.

Terror. It kills a lot more of your soldiers and wastes resources.

This is the definition of unprofessionalism.

Getting going

No, this isn’t a photo from this year. It’s last year or something. However, spring has sprung around here after another tough winter and I think it’s lifted my mood somewhat. There have been so many distractions, unpleasant events worldwide. The Ukraine. Afghanistan, etc. It’s had a real negative effect on my writing, but right now I’m starting to see the signs of a thaw.

So, without further ado, it is time to refocus on the basics. What this website is all about, plus my paid site over on Writing, specifically science fiction and the creative processes contained within.

This morning I busted out another chapter of The Promised Land trilogy, my latest sci-fi books. The premise is an exploration of the dawn of the human interstellar expansion, but with an unusual twist. If you’d like to check it out, just click on the link above and find the FREE STUFF tab. There are three free chapters of the first book in the series, The Storyteller’s World. By all means hop aboard, for three bucks a month you get two complete rough draft manuscripts of both The Promised Land and my alt history trilogy, The Ohio Rifles trilogy.

So, the juices are flowing once more. My laptop is no longer my enemy, it has transformed into a garden of fresh delights and discoveries, hence the photo above, one of my best gardens ever around here.

Writing season has begun, and I am glad as hell for it. The desert of this winter was a real chore to manage, with its constant drumbeat of terrible news. The bad news is still there, of course, but its impact has somehow been lessened and I can write again. This takes away nothing from the plight of Ukraine, or my dead Afghans. But somehow I’ve made an adjustment in my daily life, I’ve had to take a distance from the headlines for self-preservation.

There is nothing I can do, the realization took a while to take hold.

I cannot grab up my old body armor and go do the thing. I cannot hold a rifle and defend a land that is not mine. It is irresponsible for me to lose myself in a final, savage fight over a city with an (for me) unpronounceable name. These realizations came to me when I performed a prosaic chore here at home. I took my nightly meds, kindly provided by the VA, and thought “What the hell were you thinking?” My last war trashed my ability to fight in the next.

The US Army had that one figured out a decade ago, this is why they sent me to the Medical Board and after a very long process, they retired me.

I put my boots in a closet, only to be worn on Memorial Day, if I feel like it. Most times I don’t. So there the worn out desert boots sit, the dust of Afghanistan still clinging to the seams.

But the dust is still in my lungs and head. It was only when faced by the pile of pills that I realized I can’t function in combat anymore. What if I had an episode when the shells start falling? If my battered ears faced their last straw? If my left arm finally stopped working? If I couldn’t pull the trigger again when I really needed to? If, if, if.

The answer was right in front of me the entire time, in the form of a row of brown bottles on my kitchen counter. If I went to fight, there would be no meds. No support. No let-up. My fat and battered body would fail me, and maybe my mind.

The Army was right. But the realization was hard, very hard.

Ultimately, though, the epiphany, if that’s what you want to call it, was healthy. My writing recovered, and now I’m back to doing what I need to do.

Write. Create. Take care of my family and friends. Bury the past where it belongs, leave my boots in the closet and my body armor in the basement. When I die my kids can sell them on eBay, rather than leaving them to rot in an unmarked grave, or hanging on the wall of some soldier as a souvenir.

This is the brutal truth.

With age and retirement comes new priorities. Or rather some older ones, as I’ve been writing since 2014. As of late I’ve neglected them and now I feel better, refocused on the job at hand.

Finishing the bridge novel in my new series. Maintaining my small but loyal fan base. Putting out content on my various websites and pages. Helping my old friend to restore his house. Taking care of business here in the literal farm I bought, my shelter, my domestic bliss.

Is that really so bad?

I’m shaking my head at what it took to see the obvious. My soldiering days are done. For good. I’m a writer now, a husband, friend and father. A Jack-of-all-trades. A blogger.

I am also a witness to the ugliest, largest scale combat in Europe since World War Two. I witnessed the demise of my Afghans as well.

As a witness, I now realize there is nothing I can do.

With that comes acceptance. With acceptance, the thaw came at last.

For what it’s worth, I wish strength to those who face the shot and shell. More importantly, my tax dollars support the brave who face steep odds. May they find a warrior’s luck, may they defend their homes, may they avenge their dead, and may this needless horror-show of a war end with victory for the justified.

I curse those dangerous men who dream of fire and glory, paid in blood with other men’s lives.

I will continue to write, and tell the soldier’s tale.

The story of the grunt, the person who carries the sword. The supremely inglorious bastard, the private trooper who follows mostly stupid orders and faces the battle, sacrificing their sanity, chunks of their bodies, and often enough their lives.

This. This is what I can do, as a memorial of sorts. Leave a record of words, so that those who follow can see what we faced in these often benighted times.

My boots have marched their kilometers, heavily laden.

Now they sit in darkness, as does a considerable chunk of our globe.

One day they will turn back into dust, as will we all.

But our words and deeds remain. I’ve done my deeds. Now I’m back to producing words.

May they be true.

The Dam Breaks

Alright, guys, early this morning I finally say down and wrote.

It’s been a while. Too long. I have sat on the midpoint of my new novel for far too long, held off by terrible news from overseas and pure intimidation.

Intimidation, you ask? Intimidated by what? It’s just a story.

Yeah, just a story. In the bridge novel of my new space opera trilogy I have to create a new world in my head and make it believable for me. If it’s believable for me, then it should be a device to keep my readers doing their job, which is to read my books. There are published books, then there are the rough draft manuscripts behind my paywall. It’s all out there, and it’s my job to hook my readers in. To entertain them. To get them to enjoy my various universes.

So, it’s a big ask, this second book in my space opera. I have been stopped cold by intimidation.

No more. This morning I sat behind my trusty MacBook and typed like a demon. Before I knew it, I pounded out 2200 words, my coffee had grown cold. Yeah, it was a waste of good premium coffee, but it was not a waste of time.

This. This is what success feels like, the creative dam breaking. Right now I feel like I could pound out another chapter, no problem. Finally, I can write again.

The stupid dam has broken, I am free once more.

So, its time to bust open the creative faucet and pound out book two of the Storyteller trilogy.

Link up with me behind the three-dollar barrier! We’ll have fun.


Forcing my hand

Hey, everyone.

Not a particularly long post today, I just wanted to say that there are now two complete RD manuscripts out over on my Patreon site.

I chose to add the final chapters to my WW1 alt history over there early to 1. get the end out to my fans and readers and 2. to force me to schedule the next chapters in the WW1 trilogy. Also, this sharpens the mind so that I can continue to write on the other trilogy I have cooking, a space opera set in the fairly near future where humanity begins, in a novel form, to spread throughout interstellar space.

Accelerating the release of my latest forces my hand, in short. It makes me put in the work of scheduling the next book in the WW1 trilogy (the complete trilogy is written, in RD form) and writing on the space opera bits.

I need this. The news is nothing but doom and gloom, and I do not care to see it.

Instead, I choose to be productive, and the Patreon page is a godsend to that end. I have an obligation to those who pay me to write, and I take that commitment seriously.

So, by all means head over there and check it out. There’s bonus content, rants, and two complete novels plus the beginning of a third, soon to be followed by a fourth. No shortage of things to read, really.

Hope to actually publish this year.