Less-Than-Effective NATO Weapon Systems Of World War III Part II

AMX-30 Main Battle Tank (France)- The AMX-30 was a contemporary of the Leopard I, Chieftain and M-60. It was upgraded in the early 80s to the AMX-30B2 standard, giving it a fire control system, improvements to the main gun armament, and new transmission, suspension, and engines. It was hoped that these modifications would enhance the AMX-30s lethality and survivability on the modern battlefield. By 1987 a good number of upgraded tanks had entered service. Many of these made their way to the Central Front and played a part in later battles in the southern regions of the FRG. Sadly, it turned out these issues had not been fully addressed and ameliorated. The AMX-30B2, like its unmodified predecessor, remained under-gunned and under-protected when facing off against more modern variants of the Soviet T-72 and T-80. Cross country mobility was also an issue for the earlier versions of the AMX-30. Overall, the tank was adequate and performed its task well in conjunction with mechanized infantry and artillery. On its own, however, in a tank vs tank environment the AMX-30 came up short more often than not.

Greek forces were somewhat more successful with their AMX-30s fighting against Bulgarian and Soviet T-55s and T-62s in Thrace.

F-104 Starfighter (US origins, used by multiple nations and built on license by others)-The F-104 is a storied fighter aircraft with a history spanning over forty-five years. Originally introduced as an air-superiority fighter for the USAF in the late 50s, the Starfighter had evolved into the role of a fighter-bomber for a number of NATO air forces through the last two decades of the Cold War. By July, 1987 it remained in frontline service with the West Germany, Turkey and Greece. The West Germans utilized the F-104G as an all-weather ground attack aircraft. For much of World War III Luftwaffe Starfighters flew mostly close air support missions with the occasional interdiction sortie thrown in. Marineflieger -104s flew similar missions but also anti-ship and reconnaissance sorties as well. In both cases, -104 losses were heavy in both pilots and airframes through the war. The low-level close air support duties were responsible for most losses. The mission itself was very dangerous and Soviet battlefield air defenses took a heavy toll. Added to the dangers posed by ZSU-23s and SA-8 Gecko mobile SAM launchers were the high speeds and low altitudes that the F-104s operated at. In short, the Starfighter was an aircraft from a different era, not suited at all for operations over the European battlefields of 1987.

Turkish and Greek F-104s also absorbed high casualties in men and aircraft.

Tigerfish Torpedo (United Kingdom)- The Tigerfish was the standard torpedo carried aboard the Royal Navy’s nuclear powered attack submarines. Its development had been a troublesome one to say the least, with multiple problems plaguing the initial model, followed by unresolved issues in the follow up modification batch. By the early summer of 1987 the Mod 2 Tigerfish was starting to enter service but in small numbers. As a result, the Royal Navy’s Churchill, Swiftsure and Trafalgar class attack boats went to war with mostly Mod 1 Tigerfish aboard initially. The result was a revisiting of troubles the weapon had in the Falklands War and earlier; Reliability issues, and subpar anti-surface performance being the greatest problems. The Tigerfish caused the biggest headaches for the Royal Navy up north in the Norwegian and Barents Sea. Faulty Tigerfish allowed more than one Soviet submarine and surface ship to live and fight another day. Tragically, a Tigerfish Mod 1 also led to the death of HMS Sovereign when a torpedo exploded pre-maturely moments after it was ejected from the attack sub’s #3 tube while hunting a Victor II class attack sub southeast of Svalbard. 

Bo-105/PAH-1 (West Germany)- The PAH-1 was West Germany’s anti-tank helicopter in the Third World War. It was essentially a Bo-105 multipurpose helicopter fitted with racks for HOT anti-tank missiles. No other armament, sensors or countermeasures. To be fair, the West German Army only considered the PAH-1 to be a stopgap measure until a dedicated and more capable anti-tank helicopter became available. Sadly, when war came the PAH-1 was still in service. Unable to perform night or all-weather missions and having no countermeasures at all, the helicopter found itself at a tremendous disadvantage. Especially in an environment where many dedicated attack helicopters struggled to survive. Losses were nearly crippling in the first two weeks of war and by late July most surviving PAH-1s had been relegated to reserve status, with US Army AH-1 and AH-64 attack helicopters providing airborne anti-tank support for HEER units when and wherever possible.  

8 Replies to “Less-Than-Effective NATO Weapon Systems Of World War III Part II”

  1. I fell in love with the F-104 Starfighter from an early age. The Starfighter looks like it could fly direct to orbit.

    It was a decent interceptor. Germany using the F-104 in the ground attack role was like using a Ferrari for construction work. Madness.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, Wayne. Strangely, they weren’t the only ones to use the -104 as a fighter-bomber. But the Germans lost a lot of planes and pilots in real life on low-level training flights.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Mike, thanks for doing this. Interesting to see this hardware again with hindsight.

    On another topic, have you seen any evidence of the Uks using the Tu-141 for those “deep” strikes? I have so many questions if they were able to get a couple of those dinosaurs up and operating.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My pleasure, Chris. 🙂

      I’ve seen reports about Tu-141 use in the war. Not much on the deep strikes since they allegedly came just recently. But they were also used early on. Apparently, one went off course and crashed in Croatia early in the war. The recent use was allegedly against Engels Air Base deep in Russia. Whether they struck their targets or were downed by air defenses is unclear. We may no know until after the war is over. So much conflicting information out there now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I always wondered how the gunship and TOW Hummers in airborne/air assault and light units would have fared. A lot of stock was put on their ability to bring effective heavy weapons and AT fire in support of line companies while using their mobility to avoid the enemy reply. They were pretty vulnerable to airburst artillery and anything upwards of a sharp stick in direct fire and we found out at NTC that we couldn’t outrun tracks in the open desert. We seemed to do (notionally) OK in a defense with fires, obstacles, and prepared positions; or when we could use stand-off range, but had to be “pulled” into a position by the line companies or advance very deliberately (exposing us to counterattack) on the offense as happened at JRTC when we (notionally) died when a pair of Sheridan VISMODS swung around us after being talked on by a spotter team.

    Maybe it’s more than just those systems. The entire light force concept was still in its infancy in the 80s. Aside from the 101st, who had more helicopters, the light and airborne divisions of the 80s were designed with strategic mobility prioritized over tactical or operational mobility. So a minimum of trucks, lighter scales of artillery and supporting weapons, and less engineering equipment- consistent success in laying on trucks was a hallmark of near godly ability as a company XO in the late 90s. I’d be interested to see how their performance and organization concept was assessed by the Army and DoD in a general war. I do notice only 82nd and 101st made it to Desert Shield/Storm, with the remainder staying behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know I’ve seen a few studies about this topic. To be honest I’ve always wondered about it myself, especially with how many light infantry divisions there were in the US Army back in the 80s. I’ll look around and see if I can find anything.


  4. The nightmare scenario in 79-80 was a Soviet assault on Iran and them controlling the Iran and the Gulf oil. The initial plan was to get as many soldiers with Ranger tabs and big rucksacks as soon as possible. In “Sword Point” by Harold Coyle, he picked on that thought process.

    The light divisions had several different taskings in a world war, including Central America, Middle East, Korea, and Europe. If sent to Europe, they could have been issued M113s as there was no specialty MOS to operate the vehicles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Coyle sent a light division toe to toe against Soviet armor in that book. Not good results for the light fighters.

      10th Mountain was tagged for Norway. 9th Light for Denmark. Not sure of the other light divisions European contingency plans back in the 80s. Worth examining


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