Five NATO Weapons of War Russia Should Fear
If tensions should spiral out of control, here's what Moscow should be concerned about.
When it comes to a potential war between NATO and Russia over the Ukraine or some other hotspot, everyone's attention is focused on the capabilities of U.S. versus Russian weapons.
But wait a minute. The U.S. is only one member of NATO, and it happens to be one of the members that isn't even on the European continent. Should NATO and Russia come to blows, it is certain that European forces will go into battle alongside--perhaps--American troops.
If this scenario happens, here are five NATO weapons Russia should fear:
Britain's Challenger 2 tank:
Backbone of the UK's tank force, the Challenger 2 would be in the forefront should Britain commit heavy armor to a European conflict against Russia.
The Challenger 2 is heavily protected with Dorchester (another name for Chobham armor) and armed with a 120-millimeter cannon. It has an off-road speed of about 25 miles per hour.
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Given that the most advanced tanks in the world haven't really faced each other (the First Gulf War was 25 years ago, and even Israel hasn't fought a tank battle against Russian-made armor in more than 30 years), predicting how a Challenger 2 would fare against Russian tanks would be conjecture. Weighing in at 63 tons, the Challenger 2 is certainly heavier than the various models of the 40- to 50-ton T-72s that Russia fields, including the T-72B3 and the T-90.
What this means in terms of combat performance is unclear. What is clear that should British and Russian forces come to blows, Russia would be facing a well-armed, well-armored and sophisticated main battle tank.
But as usual, the biggest enemy of the British military is Her Majesty's Treasury. Budget cuts compelled Britain to slash its tank force by 40 percent in 2010, leaving Britain with just 227 Challenger 2s. Plans to modernize the Challenger 2 and extend its lifespan, including possibly replacing its rifled cannon with a smoothbore model, are up in the air.
Russia may end up confronting deadly British tanks, but not very many.
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Germany's Type 212 submarine:
If diesel submarines scare the heck out of the U.S. Navy, the Russian Navy can't be looking forward to dealing with Germany's ultra-quiet Type 212 sub.
The 1,500-ton Type 212 has an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system that uses hydrogen-oxygen Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cells, which enable the sub to remain submerged for long periods. While German U-boat in World War II moved at a crawl while submerged, the Type 212 travels underwater at a remarkable 20 knots.
The Type 212 is armed with wire-guided DM2A4 torpedoes, as well as WASS 184 and Blackshark torpedoes. It is scheduled to be equipped with IDAS missiles, fired from the sub's torpedo tubes that can hit air, land or sea targets.
It remains to be seen how much effect German subs would have on a conflict with Russia: Russia's Crimea and Ukraine shows of force have been more toward the Black Sea than the Baltic. But should Russia be tempted to go after the Baltic States or Poland, and use its navy in the process, the Type 212s would be a force to be reckoned with.
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Comparisons of NATO and Russian airpower inevitably degenerate into "my F-22 is better than your Su-35." However, since only the U.S. uses the F-22, it seems more probable that Russian pilots would be facing Typhoons instead of Raptors.
The Typhoon is used by the German and British air forces, which are the NATO members more likely to encounter the Russians in Eastern Europe, and the Italian and Spanish air forces, which are not. Though it is has some stealth features, the Typhoon is more of a dogfighter than the F-22.
Armed with a 27-millimeter cannon and a variety of missiles, including the Sidewinder, AMRAAM and Meteor for air-to-air combat and Taurus and Storm Shadow for air-to-ground targets, the Eurofighter should prove a capable opponent. Pitting it against highly maneuverable Russian fighters such as the Su-35 would make for an interesting dogfight.
Smaller than the U.S. and British AH-64 Apache and about half the weight, the Eurocopter Tiger is a Franco-German project that entered service in 1991. It is used by France, Germany and Italy as well as Australia.
With a speed of about 181 miles per hour, various versions of the Tiger are armed with Hellfire, Spike, PARS 3 and HOT 3 anti-tank missiles, Mistral air-to-air missiles, and air-to-ground rockets.
The Tiger has seen limited combat during French and German operations in Afghanistan and Libya. But should hostilities erupt between NATO and Russia, the Tiger will be stalking Russian tanks.
Israel's Spike Missile
Why is an Israeli weapon on a list of deadly NATO hardware? Because the Spike is used by numerous NATO members, including Belgium, Britain, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.
The 31-pound Spike is a fiber-optic wire-guided anti-tank missile with a tandem warhead that uses two shaped charges to first detonate a tank's reactive armor, and then penetrate the vehicle's own armor. Available in short, medium and long-range and extended range versions, the various Spikes can hit targets at ranges from 800 meters to 8 kilometers.
The Russians have had much experience in pitting their tanks against Israeli weapons, usually with unfavorable results. A NATO-Russia conflict would test whether this still holds true.
Michael Peck is a contributing writer at Foreign Policy and a writer for War is Boring. Follow him on Twitter:@Mipeck1.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Sgt Ralph Merry ABIPP RAF/MOD/CC open governement license v1.0