The Dazzling M10 Booker: A Real Tank or Just a Light Tank?

M10 Booker
December 12, 2023 Topic: military Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: M10M10 BookerTankLight TankU.S. Army

The Dazzling M10 Booker: A Real Tank or Just a Light Tank?

The development of the General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) M10 Booker has stirred up a bit of debate. Is the M10 a tank? Or something else?

 

The development of the General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) M10 Booker has stirred up a bit of debate. Is the M10 a tank? Or something else?

According to GLDS, the M10 Booker Combat Vehicle is a “highly lethal, survivable and mobile direct fire combat vehicle melds recently developed and battle-tested designs to dominate ground threats on the multi-domain battlefield.”

 

The Army’s chief of acquisition, Doug Bush, helped sparked the debate when he called the M10 a “combat vehicle” while refusing to participate in the “esoteric and borderline religious debate among the armored community about what [the word tank] means.”

Of course, Bush’s comments received some pushback from the borderline religious tank pundits who took one look at the M10, noted the armor, the pivoting gun turret, and the tracks, and said ‘yeah that’s a tank.’

Bush didn’t help his argument when he slipped, during prepared remarks, and referred to the M10 as a tank.

M10 Booker: A tank? Or not a tank?

According to Military Times, the M10 is definitely a tank, as their June headline – ‘The Army’s M10 Booker is a tank. Prove us wrong. – indicates. The article drew inspiration from the comments of Army Major General Glenn Dean, who oversees the Army’s ground vehicle development.

“In the Army, the historical use of light tanks has been to perform reconnaissance functions,” Dean said. This is not a reconnaissance vehicle. It’s not actually a mission match [for a light tank.”

But Dean’s opinion is not universal – not even within the Army. General James McConville, the Army’s top officer, said: “To me, it’s a light tank.” McConville’s opinion carries some extra heft, given his station.

Other opinions have been more nuanced. Or more muddled, perhaps. “I don’t want to say it’s a light tank, but it’s kind of like a light tank,” David Dopp, the M10’s former program manager said in 2017.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth admitted during a press conference that “some call [the M10] a light tank.”

Military Times, for their part, cited a “standard” from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 concurrence in Jacobellis v. Ohio to “determine once and forever more whether the Booker is a tank.” The standard: “I know it when I see it,” as Potter once argued. At the time, Potter was referring to hardcore pornography (a case involving Ohio’s obscenity laws was before the court), not armored vehicles, but Military Times felt the sentiment applied, and I’m inclined to agree.

The standards of a tank

Military Times’s rationale holds that the M10 “has full tracks. So do tanks. It has a 105mm main gun intended for direct-fire engagements. So do tanks, and the original M1 Abrams had a similar cannon. Its turrets can traverse 360 degrees. So can those of tanks. It controls mimic those of the M1 Abrams main battle tank. It doesn’t carry infantry into battle. Neither do tanks. It’s protected enough to withstand attacks from enemy armored vehicles. So are tanks.”

Dean himself, who classified the M10 as a “combat vehicle,” acknowledged that the M10 “looks like,  smells like [and] feels like” a tank.

Why call it something else?

Given the confusion, and given the strong support in favor of calling the M10 a proper tank, why do some individuals in the Army continue pushing the idea that the M10 is not a tank?

“A potential answer comes via a 2019 white paper,” Military Times reported, “in which two officers argue that the service intentionally moved away from the “light tank” label,” because,” The Booker is much smaller than the Abrams main battle tank, which officials say will allow it greater maneuverability and reduced maintenance needs while also providing powerful support to the infantry brigades they’ll join. But for its advantages, the Booker isn’t supposed to square off against enemy main battle tanks. The white paper’s authors argued, then, that dropping the “light tank” moniker was meant to “dissuade” troops from using it like a main battle tank rather than in the infantry support role they envisioned.”

M1 Abrams Tank

I understand wanting to avoid confusion about how the M10 would be used. But I would hope that the Army were able to train M10 operators to use the…vehicle…however best intended – regardless of what the thing is called. The F-117 Nighthawk, for example, was really an attack aircraft; the Fighter or (‘F’) designation was added to attract fighter pilots to the new aircraft despite the F-117 not being a fighter.

Now, despite the fact that the F-117 lacked air-to-air capabilities – yet still carried the Fighter designation – I’m not aware of any F-117 pilots engaging with MiG or Sukhoi aircraft in a dogfight.

About the Author 

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

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