Cold war NATO armoured doctrine

Nov 2014
412
ph
#1
What was the doctrine of NATO during the Cold War for armored forces? Did they just photocopy the German blitzkrieg model? Or was it similar to the Soviet deep battle? Why did France stick with practically paper thin armor for its tanks until the end of the Cold War, why did it not try to develop a 120mm gun tank with thicker composite armor like the Leopard 2, Abrams, and Challenger?
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,819
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#2
Substantially NATO tank divisions were a kind of counterweight of the Soviet ones. The possible fronts were four: Scandinavia, West Germany, Greece and North East Italy [thinking that Tito's descendants would have left Soviet division pass].

The doctrine was quite simple: the best armored divisions were near the potential fronts [US 1st division, "Old Ironsides", was in Germany, just to say and Germans had wide divisions of good tanks]. This accompanied by a remarkable air support and an efficient system of missile brigades.

In Italy we developed something particular: NATO evaluated that it was quite improbable to be able to stop the Soviets so that here the Alliance organized a secret "stay behind" structure to start a guerrilla after the invasion. Anyway, to try and break the advance of the Soviet armored divisions, we produced a particular "tank hunter", the Centauro, a wheeled armored vehicle, really agile, fast, with a big and accurate cannon. Theoretically it could have destroyed old Soviet tanks in column [Soviet armored divisions at the beginning of the 80's were enormous, but many tanks were old]. The curiousity about the Centauro is that, since in Italy public works are always extremely long ... the unit entered in service in ... 1991! When it was almost useless, since Soviet Union was falling.

As for tanks we had American and German tanks [only later Italy would have produced its present MBT Ariete].

I've found this WIKI page with some numbers [quite accurate, at first sight, but you know, it's WIKI ...] Cold War tank formations - Wikipedia

About the French tanks ... it was a choice: they thought that to protect for real a tank from the most recent anti-tank weapons they needed too much armor and they preferred velocity and agility. So the AMX-30 was quite similar to the Italian Centauro, as for conception, even if it was a Tank, not exactly a tank hunter.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,413
Las Vegas, NV USA
#3
I don't know about European weapon systems, but the US continued to upgrade conventional weapons throughout the Cold War. However the plan to meet an all out Soviet thrust into West Germany was tactical nuclear weapons. From 1945 to 1971 tactical nukes were in the UK and several other NATO countries. Protests led their removal from the other countries except Germany after 1971. It was felt NATO could not maintain the the level of conventional forces to stop a Soviet thrust.

https://www.archives.gov/files/declassification/pidb/meetings/where-they-were.pdf

Cold War tank formations - Wikipedia
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,782
Sydney
#5
the plan was to hold back and delay the Warsaw pact formation around the Fulda gap ,
the armor was to have a defensive posture and get destroyed to buy time for the reinforcement to arrive
air power was the major asset , the ground troops were basically hostages to fortune until the nuclear threshold was reached
initialy only tactical nukes to be used as a warning

Norway was to be defended by the British the Mediterranean was treated as a secondary concern
the plains of central Germany were critical ,
worst case scenario ,the Soviet tank Armies would be on the right bank of the Rhine in two weeks

for the soviets the war scenario would be an advance of NATO forces into Poland , Czechoslovakia and Romania
the main front would be to check them on the Oder then the Vistula , once the Soviet territory was breached to go nuclear with tactical nukes

both the US and soviets would fight until the last European but avoid escalating to bomb both homeland
a foolish hope really , Moloch the God of war is a greedy God
 
Likes: stevev
Jul 2016
9,676
USA
#6
The general principle was that NATO was going to be defending W. Germany and rest of Western Europe, not attacking into E. Germany or other Warsaw Pact nations. How they planned to do that changed constantly, for instance from early 70s to early 80s there were numerous doctrinal changes, from Forward Defense, to Active Defense, to AirLand Battle.
 
Jul 2016
9,676
USA
#7
the plan was to hold back and delay the Warsaw pact formation around the Fulda gap ,
the armor was to have a defensive posture and get destroyed to buy time for the reinforcement to arrive
air power was the major asset , the ground troops were basically hostages to fortune until the nuclear threshold was reached
initialy only tactical nukes to be used as a warning

Norway was to be defended by the British the Mediterranean was treated as a secondary concern
the plains of central Germany were critical ,
worst case scenario ,the Soviet tank Armies would be on the right bank of the Rhine in two weeks

for the soviets the war scenario would be an advance of NATO forces into Poland , Czechoslovakia and Romania
the main front would be to check them on the Oder then the Vistula , once the Soviet territory was breached to go nuclear with tactical nukes

both the US and soviets would fight until the last European but avoid escalating to bomb both homeland
a foolish hope really , Moloch the God of war is a greedy God
While the Fulda Gap position for US V Corps was important to defend, as it led to Frankfurt, it was hardly the only spot that would be attacked. The sectors north of it were much better tank country and would likely have seen even stronger attacks.

 
Likes: stevev

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,260
Dispargum
#8
The 1980s doctrine of Air-Land Battle was actually put into action during Desert Storm. There are some differences like terrain and the quality of the enemy, but you can probably gain a lot of insight into Air-land Battle by studying the Gulf War.
 
Jul 2016
9,676
USA
#10
The 1980s doctrine of Air-Land Battle was actually put into action during Desert Storm. There are some differences like terrain and the quality of the enemy, but you can probably gain a lot of insight into Air-land Battle by studying the Gulf War.
To some extend, yes. But the Iraqis never fought a massed battle where the USAF performed the role it was supposed to in Air-Land Battle, which was tactical air interdiction strikes against deep targets, behind the lines. The largest armor battles occurred in the west, and to avoid tipping off the Iraqis that an assault was coming from that direction absolute minimum air strikes were conducted, leading to an armor vs armor fight, which is quite rare actually.