FM 3-2.1 - The Tank Crewman

Introduction

Tanks were first used in the Great War to end trench warfare, but now assume the former role of cavalry on the battlefield. A tank is a tracked armored fighting vehicle that is designed to engage enemy forces head on via direct fire from a large caliber gun. Its mission is to flank enemy positions with fast movement or to penetrate enemy defenses. But to be truly effective in combat, it must be manned by a well-trained and well-dedicated tank crew.

A tank crewman’s duty is to perform various duties relating to the operation and maintenance of the tank, including tactical employment; preparing tanks, personnel, equipment, and ammunition; locating targets; loading, aiming, firing tank weapons; driving the tank; and performance of operator-level preventive and corrective maintenance.

This manual discusses the techniques and procedures on how the tank crewman fights. Its intended audiences are the tank crewmen, tank commanders, and infantry leaders. Secondary audiences include staff officers and instructors. The manual is organized in separate sections that discuss crew members, maneuvering, firing, combat techniques, and maintenance.

Crew Members

A tank crew must work together in order to operate and maintain the tank. Each has a different job which is listed below (To enter a vehicle type in +getin <vehicle number>, then to join a post type in +join <position number>, and to exit a vehicle type in +getout).
(1) Tank Commander – spots new targets (+peek <direction>, +lookout), directs the efforts of the rest of the tank crew (+assist <person>), controls the ammunition type loaded into all the weapons (+ammo <gun number>/<ammo type to load>), puts out fires (+fight fire) and could probably use an auxiliary weapon if one is available (+gunnery <target>).
(2) Gunner – firing and reloading the tank’s weapons (+gunnery <target>, +load <weapon number>).
(3) Loader – helps the gunner reload the tank’s weapons (+load <weapon number>), and in case of a fire, tries to put it out to prevent the ammunition from igniting (+fight fire).
(4) Driver – maneuvers the tank through the battlefield (+drive <direction>, +facing <direction>, +position <target>)

Maneuvering

The driver is the crew member who is responsible for maneuvering the tank through the battlefield to reach the objective or dodge threats (+drive <direction>). Because the front of the tank has the thickest armor, it would be wise to face the tank towards the nearest threat (+facing <direction>). When in mid-range of an enemy armored threat, the driver should try to position the tank at the best place possible for the gunner to fire at the enemy (+position <target>). The tank commander should give directions to the driver about getting to the objective or give them heads up about the environment (+assist <person>).

Firing

The gunner is the crew member who is responsible for firing the tank’s primary weapon (+gunnery <target>). However, tanks may have auxiliary weapons, so a gunner may choose between different weapons to use depending on the situation (+wepselect <weapon number>). So the cannon can be used to engage other tanks while a coaxial machine gun can be used to dispatch enemy infantry. When a vehicle mounted weapon is out of ammunition, gunners and loaders should reload as soon as possible to maintain the rate of fire (+load <weapon number>). The tank commander should give directions to the gunner about who to target and shoot at, also making them aware of the environment (+assist <person>).

Combat Techniques

Tanks are difficult to operate and support but remain one of the most formidable and versatile weapons of the battlefield. They are capable of engaging and providing shock value against other ground units, fortifications, and infantry. However, to maximize their efficiency, they are organized into units that take in account combined arms. Without support from infantry and air units, the tank will be vulnerable to anti-tank artillery, anti-tank mines, infantry at close range, and anti-tank aircraft.

When faced with anti-tank mines, the tank will not be able to cross a minefield or risk either a mobility or catastrophic kill. Combat engineers or tank mounted minesweeper will be required to combat the anti-tank mine threat. Because of the expense of a tank and its crew, it is not very wise to send them through a minefield.

Against other tanks, it is best to engage them at long range (adjacent room). Because the front of the tank has the thickest armor, it would be wise to face the tank towards the nearest threat (+facing <direction>). Try to maneuver the tank on the flanks or the rear of the enemy tank, where it is easier to score a catastrophic kill. However, when in mid-range (same room) of an enemy armored threat, the driver should try to position the tank at the best place possible for the gunner to fire at the enemy (+position <target>). The gunner should fire the tank’s primary weapon (+gunnery <target>) at the enemy, provided that it is enough to penetrate the enemy’s armor. Otherwise it is best not to engage.

When faced with anti-tank aircraft, the tank has no defenses and must move quickly to avoid the enemy’s wrath (+drive <direction>). Of all the sides of the tank, the top has the least amount of armor, and an attack from the air will nevertheless increase the chances of a catastrophic kill. Provided that anti-aircraft artillery is available, the tank will always be exposed to anti-tank aircraft.

The tank is very effective against infantry at long ranges (adjacent room). Its weaponry can deliver heavy firepower upon the mainly defenseless infantrymen. Thus, it is best to always keep a distance from enemy infantry and blast them with everything the tank has (+gunnery <target>). However, the tank will need infantry escorts to help defend it when the enemy infantry is in mid to close range (adjacent room, +engaged) because the tank’s weaponry will not be able to target the more maneuverable and unseen enemy. This makes the tank vulnerable to explosives and the crew in danger of being slaughtered within their own protection. When the enemy infantry has successfully closed in with the infantry, the tank crew must again create distance between the enemy infantry and the tank (+drive <direction>). Another method is to call another tank to “scratch their back,” meaning using a friendly tank’s weaponry to kill the nearby enemy infantry.

Maintenance

Because tanks are difficult to operate and support, constant maintenance will increase its combat efficiency and effectiveness. Thus, it is essential that the tank be kept at the best possible condition at all times. The entire crew is obligated to learn some mechanics and maintain the tank or it may break down during combat, making them sitting ducks. Also, during combat, the tank may also be damaged. Provided it is not completely destroyed, it can be repaired (+fix/armour <dbref>/<front|back|side>, +fix/crit <dbref>/<critical>, +fix/sys <dbref of vehicle>) and returned to combat duty.

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