The U.S. Army Is Repainting Its Tanks Green—Hint Hint
Abrams get a camouflage scheme for a European battlefield
American tanks returned to Europe to deter Russian military adventurism in 2014, and the war machines are there to stay. But the speed of the deployments, coupled with the crews’ busy schedules, left little time to repaint hundreds of M-1 Abrams still colored in desert tan.
Their appearance was a jarring contrast, since for most of the year, Eastern Europe … is green. The tanks stuck out, which in the event of a conflict, is the last thing a military should want its machines—and by extension its soldiers—to do.
The 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment added temporary green netting to their tanks. But it wasn’t until they had settled into the U.S. Army’s Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany that the tanks began receiving a fresh paint job.
This means Russian tank crews, in the event of a clash, will now have to squint a little harder through their scopes.
It’s a simple enough job to repaint tanks, but it’s simple job that is also very hard. From washing a tank or armored fighting vehicle, letting it dry, then painting it and waiting for it dry a second time takes three days, according to the Army Times.
Now repeat that hundreds of times.
“We basically had intense training event to intense training event, which led to little room for opportunities,” the Capt. James England of the 1st Battalion’s B Company told the paper.
The 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team will be in Europe until September 2017, part of the United States’ regular troop rotations training with NATO allies across the continent.
The Iron Brigade’s 400 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and self-propelled Paladin howitzers are getting the green paint scheme.
The Army’s emphasis on tanks in deterring Russia underlines the machines’ continued importance. Anti-tank missiles have devastated Syrian and Turkish tanks in the Middle East, but they’re still the heaviest ground vehicles available, possess long-range and heavy firepower, and allow armies to maneuver in force.
And of course, Russia has thousands of them.
If there were a war for the Baltic States, light airborne forces rushed to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank would be overrun and destroyed, a RAND report warned. Heavy armor is still necessary.
Even the Israel Defense Forces, which lost dozens of tanks in the 2006 Lebanon War, has reemphasized the importance of armor in its military doctrine. Hezbollah inflicted severe damage on Israel’s Merkava tanks in ambushes by highly-trained teams armed with anti-tank missiles.
The Israeli military later blamed the IDF’s problems on an uncoordinated lack-of strategy, and the loss of skills and procedures for waging a large-scale war of maneuver. The tanks themselves were still quite relevant.
Tanks are more vulnerable than they used to be. But they’re still going to outmatch other kinds of vehicles in forcing an enemy to react. One way is by maneuvering a tank to force a hidden enemy—one armed with a missile, say—to change location, which exposes him to observation and fire. A tank’s very presence can also push a potential enemy to decide not to act.
“We are deploying battle groups, battalions, which we consider necessary to convey a message of deterrence, credible deterrence, that if one NATO ally is attacked, it will trigger a whole response from the whole alliance,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told PBS Newshour on April 12.
NATO officials are talking, and the alliance is starting to behave, with deterrence in mind. And it it works, the green-painted tanks will never have to go to war.