There is something to be said about armor combat that simply will not be "outdated" in the near future.
They are _obsolescent_ even today. Because airpower and artillery removes the option of free-wheeling maneuver as a main force decision (or there
would have been multiple tank battles on the way to Baghdad) and has done so since at least Mortain.
The difference is that the 'datedness' of the doctrine is ignored by men who drove tanks 15-20-30 years ago and are now _commanding_ men who also
enjoy the thrill of a mission whose supplantation they ignore for personal thrill.
To some extent, as long as 'the knights refuse to believe in bullets' and are generally supported in their delusion by a lack of employment,
brilliant maneuver logistics and overwhelming 'secondary support missions' (infowarfare, special ops diplomacy, airpower, artillery etc.) means to
throw _much smaller_ enemies into shock and rout; this will remain true.
Yet the fact remains that if we ever _once_ faced an enemy whose only goal was victory and whose only wish was to beat us _not_ at our own game, we
would not last an hour in any properly prepared battle.
Tanks still have not only serious firepower on a mobile system that can engage a wide range of targets, but also have a psychological impact too.
Battlefield courage takes time to develop as much death and blood to be rendered combat ineffective. You see the man next to you turn into a red
mist from the shoulders up, you suddenly realize that _presenting_ a target signature to an enemy is not a wise thing to do. You /stand off/, using
either distance or remote sensors to WATCH tank shoot holes in a hotel building and it strikes you how /amazingly/ blind and blundering these weapons
systems are. From which two lessons:
1. Bravery is a function of exposure to needless risk.
2. Anything which is not a nail standing up, is apt to become invisible in the background clutter.
It becomes simple to devise means by which you destroy your enemy without ever being directly exposed to him.
Bombs in roads.
RPG gunners that duck around corners and shoot in the flanks.
Suiciders that are being paid to carry a weapon to a location only to find that they are _never supposed_ to get to their destination.
As you said, armor support is always nice to have, and as long as everyone else produces tanks, there will be a need for your own tank to counter it,
because you can never eliminate the threat of armor by simply using infantry AT weapons or air-cover.
The reality is that I can get function kills on a tank with a stick of dynamite. In the tread blocks, in an engine grille, in the targeting optics,
even down the barrel or close to the evacuator. Once you realize how /liittle/ it takes to kill these people who survive-to-butcher by _reputation
alone_; the amount of dead weight inherent to 'taking hits and slugging back' in a convetional sense disappears completely.
Because it is a fool who operates in open country where he can be seen coming HOURS before battle and have his entire unit sprayed down with brilliant
antitank munitions that effectively employ ONE bomb to gain as many as _40_ kills.
Yet in a city (and increasingly, MOUT will be the standard, not the exception), practical armor is insufficient to protect you from nearly any main
tube (right down to 30-45mm on IFVs), even in the front quarter. And the advantage of surprise lies with those who can either **afford to lose**
assets in /creating/ an ambush or overwhelming fires conditioned 'meeting engagement'. Or can employ a superior use of terrain and _smaller
signatures_ to avoid being engaged as the heavy armor advances.
Any .50 on a Jeep can act as a support weapon to advancing infantry.
Yet by the same standard, any Goliath-become-SWORDS UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) can /carry/ a demolition charge big enough to destroy EITHER a Jeep
OR an MBT right up alongside or under the supporting vehicle.
At which time the point guys out front are dead, they just don't know it yet.
The Jeep is gonna cost you about 150-200 grande. The MBT is going to run you about 4-6 million. The robot is going to be something like 1-10,000
bucks. Maybe less if you pull selfhoming and target sorting intelligence and go with 'Tamiya standardize parts' using radio controlled toy
At which point you are left with a conundrum. Any shop, house, ditch or streetsign may have enough blocking-LOS to hide a sacrificial threat which is
lethal to your vehicle force.
Yet to defend against /small arms/ you must have a _minimum_ of (much larger, heavier) .5" steel RHA equivalency.
The question then being, 'why further increase the volume (=weight=cost) of the vehicle for a manned presence which _cannot_ beat an MBT -or- a
robotic tank with a 200lbs of Semtex strapped to it. When the guys inside are just being made 'bigger targets' by virtue of riding along with the
vehicle. And the AFV itself is going to skyrocket in sticker shock for doing so.
The obvious answer is that vehicles which move too fast or are themselves too light to be combined arms escorted by conventional mech infantry, cannot
ALSO be so expensive that they cannot be used independently to attack and secure target objectives, accepting their own losses incurred by not having
a private willing to duck his head around the corner.
Such a vehicle 'somewhere between' the Goliath (German WWII remote explosive delivery tank) the Hummer Up Armor and the MBT might in fact look like
In that you have a 20-30mm round perfectly suitable for busting up buildings without overpenetrating 2 more houses down the block like APFSDS does.
Or blowing up the house as a whole, like HEAT does.
In a vehicle which is small and light enough to be carried by Chinook or Stallion helicopters. And (comparitively, with conventional armor) has
_excellent_ reliability and economics (ton mile support train numbers).
Such a vehicle can mount Javelin or TOW and, with servo remoted or onboard control of weapons, can attack either directly or by loft even the heaviest
of armored/defiladed threats /without/ ever being exposed to direct fire or severe jamming.
IOW, there is little or nothing that an MBT can do 'in town' that a much smaller, lighter, more immediately replaceable, armored vehicle cannot.
Provided you do not have LIVE forces in contact whose even softer skin must (somehow) be protected.
And we know it. Because we have after action reports coming out of OIF _saying_ that troopers found themselves short of 'suitable munitions' (way
too much APFDS, not enough HEAT and MG) which, in an of itself admits that they were already getting the short end of the stick in terms of assymetric
warfare and Contempt Of Engagement tactics that forever put the enemy behind civillians or running away over the next hill.
Armor may remain. But the mix of protection, firepower and mobility is and must forever be altered from what we expected it to do in a NATO war in
Europe. Because it is just too damn easy to kill a tank in close battle. But it is NOT simple to support or even /purchase/ one such that they can
be the ubiquitous means by which particularly the American force metric faces enemies on a 'silicon chip vs. flesh and bone' level of similar
refusal to engage in coup games with barbarians who have no considered value for improving their lives at all. Yet are just smart enough to want to
be able to brag about the Damn Yankee they blew up along with 30 of their fellow citizens.