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Reconnaissance tanks -how did that work?
spongya
Staff MemberAssociate Editor
MODELGEEK
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Budapest, Hungary
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Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 11:36 PM UTC
So I'm playing WoT, and this got me thinking on the whole armored reconnaissance issue. (I love driving circles around enemy tank destroyers with the Luchs.)

I understand that light, fast tanks are great for this purpose, but light, fast tanks are still several tonnes, relatively loud, and not very fast overal. I think it'd be really hard to sneak up on anyone using one of these. Areal recon, recon on foot are one thing. You fly over/ sneak in through the woods with a radio and a field glass, you observe, and leave, and hopefully no one noticed. But a tank -as I mentioned- does not really lend itself for stealth. Even armored cars are quite noticeable. Did they simply "probe" enemy lines? Driving around until someone started shooting at them? Are there any articles/books I could read about this?
Thank you
LeoCmdr
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Alberta, Canada
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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 04:15 AM UTC
There are two different thoughts regarding armoured Recce....sneak and peak...and fighting for information.

Both have its merits and both require specific resources and skills.

Having light and quiet armoured vehicles allows the Recce teams to get into an area before the enemy is there and hunker down...set up OPs...call in Artillery or Air Strikes undetected...transmit information and intelligence back...and then get out of Dodge quick under the cover of armour and use cannon or MG fire to protect themselves.

Having main battle tanks as Recce incorporates many other additional requirements right from logistical support, Mechanized Recce troops, and dedicated fire support. The ability for larger armoured formations to detect and then engage enemy forces head on has a huge strategic value in allowing larger units to bypass or envelop the enemy position while being distracted by armoured Recce forces. In most cases heavy armoured Recce units can take on and destroy what they encounter very effectively....the issue then comes to their ability to hold the ground as they will not have large amounts if dismountable Infantry with them.

In the modern age many nations have used tanks as a Recce element...U.S. Armoured Cavalry with the Abrams, the German Bundeswehr with Leopards, and the Danish Army with their Leopards.

There are pros and cons to each type of Armoured Recce.

spongya
Staff MemberAssociate Editor
MODELGEEK
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Budapest, Hungary
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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 04:59 AM UTC
Thank you for your answer. It's even more mind-boggling that you can recon with a freaking big M1... How on earth are you going to hide that beast? It's loud, hot, and very, very big. It sounds like playing hide and seek in medieval armor. (Even with small tanks.)

Clearly my concepts and the real world are not in sync

Murdo
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Scotland, United Kingdom
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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 08:17 AM UTC
Hi Andras, Recce tanks can be fairly quiet and very fast.

Check out the modern CVR(T) family, - Combat Vehicle Reconnisance (Tracked). In particular the Scorpion (76mm Gun) and Scimitar (30mm Rarden Cannon) Light Recce Tanks.

The concept was lightly armoured (Aluminium) but very fast Recce tanks that carried a nasty punch if needed.

I think the Scorpion is gone these days but the Scimitar is still very much in use and on the loose, particularly in Afghanistan.
mmeier
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Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 12:04 PM UTC
Granted, the Decoy, Infrared, Mobile aka M1 Abrahams is not the best choice for scouting. The Can, Tin, Armed aka M3 Bradley Scout Vehicle is a better (and IIRC common) choice. Those are scout TRANSPORTS first, getting close and than have the scout team dismount and cover the last kilometer or two with the tank staying under cover but able to support/defend the dismounts

Reece tanks, at least in german parlance, include wheeled armored vehicles like the SpähPanzer Luchs (or the WWII SdKfz 231/234) The Luchs is big, heavy and VERY quiet. That think can sneak up on you in most environments. Typical german formations mixed Luchs and Leopard tanks in IIRC companies. The Luchs squadron(s) would be the forward element and the Leopards where hanging back and either cover withdrawl or, if useful, go forward and do recon-in-force.

Also remember that warzones are rarely quiet. There is always background noise, vehicles moving etc. As long as the vehicle is using available cover it is difficult to pinpoint and identify. You may hear a tank somewhere but is it yours, theirs or the Vaticans? Armored reece is a "European Theater" concept and in Europe sightlines are short (< 2km most of the time) and there is a lot of cover from small lumps of trees to ridges to the next town. The terrain sometimes even makes it difficult to pinpoint a sound-source due to reflections etc.

As for hiding - that is surprisingly simple if one is well trained. Even more so back in the Cold War when electronics where less advanced and less common (Light Amplification Night Vision Googles where specialist gear, Thermo-Imagers vehicle mounted - and quite a few tanks still used Light Amplification instead) and batteries not as advanced (We made some great advances there in the late 1990s/early 2000)

The trick is to "blend in" with the terrain. The human eye can be fooled if the distance is long enough (some 100 meters) and the shape is brocken in a way that is seen as "artificial" or "human". That is the reason for Ghillie Suits, Helmet cammo (and cammo painted faces) etc. as well as for cammo paint on tanks (Google a bit about MASSTER/MERDC for discussions on this or Ambush/Hinterhalt Tarnung) Modern Thermal Imagers (and LI to a lesser degree) expose vehicles since the heat pattern stands out as "artificial"
spongya
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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 10:05 PM UTC
Thank you all for the very informative answers. Clearly it's something I want to read more on