Cover: In the Middle of the Fight

In the Middle of the Fight

An Assessment of Medium-Armored Forces in Past Military Operations

Published Nov 2, 2008

by David E. Johnson, Adam R. Grissom, Olga Oliker


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This monograph presents a qualitative assessment of the performance of medium-armored forces in 13 past conflicts that span the range of military operations. The accompanying analysis is designed to help inform U.S. Army decisions about fielding medium-armored forces in the future. The case histories yielded three major insights. First, medium-armored forces fare poorly against competent, heavily armored opponents. This finding will prove relevant to the U.S. Army's medium-armored forces if their survivability and lethality do not live up to expectations or cannot be fully realized in battlefield conditions. Second, doctrinal and organizational steps can, in certain circumstances, mitigate medium armor's liabilities. These steps include the implementation of high-quality combined-arms tactics down to the lowest echelons, the effective application of supporting firepower, and training for crews and junior leaders. Finally, the U.S. Army has lacked a forced-entry armor capability since the retirement of the M551 Sheridan. Neither the Stryker vehicle nor the Future Combat Systems (as currently envisioned) can fill that critical void. The authors conclude that it would be prudent for the U.S. Army to maintain a mix of heavy, medium-armored, and light forces that can be task organized and employed in conditions that best match their attributes. Medium-armored forces have much to offer in such a mix.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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