Greek tanks have turned Evros into an impregnable fortification.
After the Vietnam War and the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict, many came to the conclusion that new technologies were signaling a revolution in the field of war due to much cheaper and easier-to-operate missiles.
The question was also raised whether tanks should go to the museum.
Tanks, however, are still present and play an important role in both Evros and the islands.
Ian Smart (Deputy Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in Britain) had noticed that modern technology has brought to history the tanks that until then dominated the battlefield.
The tank was invented in response to the impasse of trench warfare in World War I.
Although their first appearance in Cambrai (June 1917) was rather disappointing, the new weapon eventually proved to be crucial.
In the interwar period, a number of personalities emerged who saw the tanks as an ideal means of splitting the enemy’s front and deeply advancing in order to overcome and occupy or destroy strategically important targets.
Among them was Soviet-born Soviet officer Vladimir Triandafillov. General Zhukov later said he had won because he followed the Triandafillov doctrine.
At the same time, however, armies began to devise ways to neutralize the fast-moving armored enemy.
Anti-tank guns had been in development since the end of World War I.
In the interwar period, anti-tank guns were made to penetrate the increasing armor of tanks.
At the beginning of World War II, the German army broke through enemy lines and advanced to the rear of the enemy, achieving huge victories with the use of tanks.
During the war, the first hollow-barreled weapons appeared, enabling ordinary infantry to destroy the tank from a short distance.
The Germans threw the disposable Panzerfaust and the reloadable Panzershreck into battle, while the U.S. threw the well-known bazookas.
The British used the cumbersome PIAT.
A common feature of all was the hollow charge heads, which even today are the basis of anti-tank weapons.
Are tanks “dead”?
Many predicted from the 1970s that the end of the tank was just around the corner.
Armies, however, continued to invest in increasingly capable tanks, new types of armor and countermeasures to counter the threat posed by the proliferation of guided missiles and anti-tank weapons.
The armor and speed of tanks make them invincible even today when they are used en masse to break up and overtake the enemy front.
In the late 1970s, NATO revised the view that anti-tank weapons had the advantage.
It was initially thought, based on statistical calculations, that 90% of the missiles used would work properly, 90% of them would find the target, 80% of them would pierce tanks and 90% of them would immobilize tanks, giving a total probability of immobilization of 58%.
It was estimated, then, that 158 rockets were needed to destroy 100 tanks.
Immobilization, however, does not mean disaster.
In operations in Lebanon in 2006, Israeli forces confronted 400 Hezbollah anti-tank fighters divided into groups of 5 or 6, and directly equipped with 5 to 8 missiles per group.
Less than 15 tanks were immobilized during the war, even when they were set on fire, of which only one was destroyed by improvised explosive devices.
Initial estimates did not take into account that tanks and their accompanying infantry armor were not spectators of attacks against them.
In most anti-tank weapons today, the pilot must keep the target in sight until it hits him.
Tanks, however, moves in real conditions and with the first shot it will react looking for cover, launching fumigants and firing with all its weapons.
Anti-tank missiles, depending on the distance, fly for up to 15 seconds, long enough for the pilot position to be fired upon.
In addition, there is the survival from preparatory artillery fire and from artillery that will be used after the attackers realize they are being fired upon.
Even after the first shot it takes a lot of composure and training to make a second.
Anti-tank pilots, then, must be top soldiers, but is there an army that can afford to use the best in these units?
Another factor is the terrain.
If the rocket goes through vegetation, or goes downhill it will disappear from the pilot’s field of vision and will not find the target.
Most fields do not resemble the desert where the Yom Kippur War took place.
The tanks also acquired active shielding elements which explode when the anti-tank hollow charge missile comes in contact. This led to dual-head missiles.
The first to overcome the active armor of the tank and the second the main body.
Rockets, such as the Javelin, were also built, which perform abrupt ascents and strike the lightest armor of the tanks roof.
The rocket makers tried to free the pilots from tracking the target.
Thus, the technology of fire-and-forget emerged, where the missile, after being fired, is directed automatically.
Such systems are the Israeli Spike and the American Javelin, but also the latest generation of Russian Kornet.
On the other hand, tank manufacturers invented countermeasures.
They use sensors to detect threats and neutralize missiles by launching micro-missiles, bullets, or even lasers to blind the missile sensors.
Tank and anti-tank weapons in Greece
Before the war, Greece had four British tanks of different types.
During the Civil War, Greece received some British “Centaurs”.
Later the M-47 and M-48 were procured and in 1973 200 AMX-30s were put into service.
Under the CFE treaty, there were almost 2,000 Greek tanks, unthinkable for a mountainous country.
The supposed enemy, however, was the Warsaw Pact that could invade from the north, as the Germans had done in 1941.
At the same time, the Greek military put into service the 90 and 106 mm non-retreat bazookas and cannons (PAO).
Later, it bought a small number of German-Swiss Cobra with a range of two km.
Today it has three types (Leopard, Leopard II, M-48 MOLF) and Milan, TO and Kornet anti-tank guided missiles.
The tanks are mainly in Thrace to face a possible attack along the 206km long Greek-Turkish border in Evros.
Armored units are also located in the Aegean islands to prevent landing, but also for counterattacks against a bridgehead.
Turkish tanks and anti-tank weapons
The Turks upgraded 170 M-60 tanks (out of the 1500+ they have) to an M-60T with an Israeli kit, with a 120 mm cannon and the addition of active armor.
Due to the tank losses Turkey suffered in Syria, they made an urgent supply of 120 Zaslon active response systems from Ukraine. It is not known where they are located, but they are probably in tanks in Syria and not in Evros.
In case of a possible invasion of Thrace, Turkish tanks must cross the Evros to reach Greek territory.
Then they will face the extensive and wide anti-tank trench inside Greek territory and minefields, which will “channel” the directions of their attack. Crossing a river is a very difficult business, even if you have a ship.
If there is no surprise, Greek forces will have prepared their anti-tank positions and will have alternatives in case the change of position is urgent.
Anti-tank fire will soften the Turkish spearhead and a Greek counterattack could destroy Turkish forces.
Landing is even more difficult than crossing a river.
Strengthening Greek islands with missile systems turns into a suicide mission as a surprise attack is impossible.
Any concentration of boats is immediately perceptible due to proximity, while the shielding of Greek islands with sensors and patrol boats due to immigration enhances monitoring.
Landing shores, after all, are well known and there are not many alternatives due to geography.
There must also be a field for the deployment of amphibious forces in numbers sufficient to advance to other points. So there must be highways.
This means that the options for the Turks are limited and fortification is focused.
Finally, the verdict on whether the “death” of tanks because of anti-tank missiles has not yet been given.
Tank losses on various fronts are more related to the misuse of a weapon that is made for movement and frontal attack.