Phaser vs. Tank, Pt. II

Before we continue from the last Phaser vs. Tank post, let's stop for a moment and review where we are.  As I initially said:
"Do you not think a phaser can kill a tank?  Say, an old Sherman?   If you think it could, what evidence do you have that an AT-ST would be more difficult?"
In the last post it was demonstrated adequately that a phaser can one-shot a Sherman just as readily as a Sherman can one-shot Mr. Dude-with-Phaser, and in equivalent timeframes.

And thus my initial point was proven.

I also note that no inflationist has yet attempted to claim that the AT-ST is better-protected.

"Oh, sh..."

What Young has done instead is to try and muddy the waters, all while claiming his foes are "fanatical" "fanatics", not viewing things "objectively", that they are unwilling to 'comprehend the discussion beyond their anger' (following this up with some all-caps shouting), and so on.

I really should save my time for other pursuits here, but I probably had the same thought 15 years ago when others from the same bunch of insulting blowhards were similarly wrong on the internet.  So, let's play:

Inflationist Apologetics:  Evasion and Obfuscation

Star Wars must win at all costs, for Young.   Oh, sure, he'll throw some bones Trek's way from time to time, giving them victories or advantages in minor areas, but nothing strategically significant. Having an AT-ST be vulnerable to the default Federation sidearm?  Like knights in armor versus Glock-wielders, that's a bit too significant.  Most of us would simply accept that the NYPD can kick a Medieval army's ass, but inflationist Medieval fanboys who claim kiloton-yield sword-strikes are not so likely to agree.

Thus, Young has attacked my point by defending the Sherman, concocting tank-friendly tactical scenarios that purport to show the Sherman winning at least 90% of the time, as per his video comments.

Let's pause for the irony.  He's noted recently his favoring scenarios over simple numerical comparisons, and it makes sense he would feel that way . . . just like his so-called judgement criteria, the setup of a scenario can be manipulated more readily than the raw numbers.  In this case, his scenario generally works by having the Starfleet guy run at the parked and prepared tank over open ground like an idiot.  (I don't think Young mentioned the guy wearing strobe lights and a disco ball helmet with a loudspeaker continually providing the tank commander with precise range to the tank, but he might as well have.)  And yet, per Young, "It is typical of a fanatic to assume the scenario will always play out to HIS greatest advantage. One cannot assume the enemy is completely inept."

But the simple fact is, Young's strange and irrelevant ideas are just giant red herrings.  Knowing if a particular weapon can defeat a particular armor configuration or vehicle engine is its own thing, worthwhile knowledge in its own right.   There are a thousand videos online of people experimenting with whether a particular projectile can penetrate a particular object, be it arrows or .22LR versus windshield or car door, or 7.62x51mm versus engine blocks or armor plate inserts for vests or armored vehicles.  (Suffice it to say that most TV and movie heroes should be very dead.)

True, the fact that a .22LR can penetrate a car door doesn't mean that a single .22 will kill or even mission-kill a car, or even the driver.  Still, penetration is the sort of detail you want to know before going into combat against something, or even just hunting it.  Just as you don't wanna bring a knife to a gunfight, you don't wanna bring a .22 pistol to the North Hollywood Shootout.  The fact that Brian would concoct a scenario of the Starfleet guy rushing a tank while unable to penetrate it tells you most of what you need to know.

With his red herrings, Brian basically seeks to complicate and obfuscate the original penetration question for the jury.  But even with his scenarios, as the crime dramas point out, one only needs means, motive, and opportunity.

We already proved the means, and motive is assumed.  That's two outta three.  But Brian argues there will be no opportunity.

His strategy is threefold.  First, nerf phaser power to require, per his comments, minute-long dwell time (nonsense which has been covered in the first post).  Second, nerf phaser range so that Dude-with-Phaser has to be virtually on top of the tank.  Finally, make Shermans seem like long-range unstoppable killing machines to which Dude-with-Phaser could never get close.

Again, let me say that what Brian is doing is a red herring . . . the point of a phaser being able to kill a tank is already confirmed.   But the way he argues the irrelevances just so incredibly bad that I am loathe to leave all his little falsehoods unmolested, even though I know what a profound waste of time it is (and was probably designed to be).

So, let's have at them:

Phaser Range

As for phaser range, Young tried to employ his peculiar denotative logic of military roles and declare that since phasers are a pistol and modern pistols are weak and short range, so too are phasers.  That is to say, he likes to take future things and squish them in the same box with the same constraints as modern things.  So even if you showed him a phaser-armed personal-shielded antigrav-equipped flying soldier, he would say that he is just filling the role of infantry or perhaps cavalry, and decry their lack of helicopter or similar flying gunships.

(He uses as an example pawns versus bishops in chess.  Handing a pawn a phaser basically gives it the capacity to take out any piece within line of sight.  Indeed, this is why he's so bothered by the comparison of a phaser versus an AT-ST.  To his mind, it is an armored vehicle versus a pistol.  To acknowledge that the pistol can do the deed takes his set of denotations and makes him shift the entire list upward for the side he hates.  This cannot be permitted.)

So even though we have seen phasers be used to draw lines on a wall straighter and far less wiggly than one could make with any laser pointer (proving remarkable accuracy), and even despite off-axis firing and moving dot peggings and all the other things that make it clear phasers are not subject to many foibles of modern pistols, he argues they are simply dumb point-and-click interfaces like modern handguns with all the issues of sight radius, equally-limited range, and such.

That is foolish.  With the exception of phasers never being fired to orbit (indeed, LaSalle had a separate signaling device for just that purpose), we have no clear indication of maximum hand phaser range other than line-of-sight.  Certainly it is significantly greater than 100 meters, given Data making fun of muskets in "Hide and Q"[TNG1]:
"But it is hardly a weapon by our standards. A lead ball propelled by gunpowder. One hundred meters at best with any accuracy."
(Dude, you know you suck when an emotionless android is making fun of you.)

And we have seen phaser pistols be used to lay down fire on coordinates at great range.  In "Arena"[TOS1], the Gorn begin firing on the landing party at a range of 1570 yards (1435 meters, or 1.4 kilometers), and Spock notes the direction.  Kirk soon orders:  "Kelowitz, Lang, flank out. Lay down fire on co-ordinates Mr. Spock gave you ... even if you don't see them. Keep your heads down."  We don't hear of any hits other than those of the Gorn, though the Gorn apparently did choose to change locations.  Indeed, if the phaser couldn't reach that far all Kirk would've been ordering is to have his men commit suicide by highlighting their positions, which is clearly not the goal.  That was before he even inquired about the armory, after all.

It seems clear that we have an instance of handheld beam weapon combat at 1.4 kilometers.

At one kilometer, a Sherman tank is going to be visible as an object with an angular size of 0.16 degrees, or almost 9.5 MOA.  That's a piece of cake for a well-trained rifleman who need not worry about bullet drop or windage.  As for handguns, accuracy at 25 yards is considered pretty good if you get a 4-6" group, which loosely translates as 16-24" at 100 yards, or 16-24 MOA.  But a phaser is going to be more accurate, what with having no recoil, no issue with spin-stabilized projectiles, and the fact it is its own tracer round that you can move.  In a word, it is doable, even without tweaking the beam width.

Even a hundred years earlier, Andorian infantry weapons were capable of some impressive shots against air targets.

From TrekCore

While we don't see the length of the weapon used, "Cease Fire"[ENT2] provides us with an instance of Andorian ground fire from well-concealed spots bringing down an unshielded descending shuttlepod.  The pod's altitude is not specified, but once altitude loss begins the first figure given is 200 meters, and at the rate of descent a 250 meter starting altitude seems bulletproof, and one could plausibly argue for 350 or so in concert with other factors.  Coupled with the angles of the shots, these were 300-400 meter hits on a moving airborne target, with no misses . . . not too shabby.

But of course, Brian ignores this and declares hand phasers to have a range of what, 100 meters?  Yep, at 9:10 in his part two he says they have a range of "maybe" 100 meters, which would put them on par with the muskets Data found so amusing.  He also declares 200 meters to be 'well outside' pistol range about five minutes in on his part two.

That's true in the 20th Century, just like it was once true you needed to be prepared for sword combat.  Alas, things change, and they change on the battlefield perhaps most of all.  I suppose that circa 1500 CE, on a series of freshly-pressed pamphlets, we could make fun of Starfleet's lack of swords, but that would be pretty absurd. 

The reality is that phaser range is such that we can say they are most assuredly not the nose-pickers that Young would have you believe they are.  The hand phaser can outperform a modern battle rifle in range and firepower.

That said, they have not been seen to match the maximum range of a Sherman, which, depending on ammunition and the size of the installed gun, could be as much as 14 kilometers, per some sources.  However, that was not the common combat range nor considered especially effective.

Fighting the Sherman Tank

From listening to Brian Young, one would assume that a Sherman has remarkable sensor capability for rapid target acquisition, and that nothing can get close without dying.

One would be wrong.

WW2 tanks are about half-blind when the hatches are battened down.  Terrain, buildings, and vegetation limited line of sight tremendously in many tank engagements in Europe.  Here is one classic example:

Of course, that's not representative of the commonplace.  Internet opinions as to the most common ranges differ.  On the lower end, per some, many of the tank-on-tank battles in Western Europe were fought at extremely close range, as in a couple of hundred meters.  Certainly urban combat would feature such ranges.  A couple of hundred meters is within rifle range (the M1 Garand is suggested to have a 300 yard range).   On the higher end, we have the statement on Wikipedia that tank battles had an average combat range of 800-900 meters.

Other sources have differing views.  There is, of course, the rather amusing Patton anecdote in which Patton suggests to Zhukov that Patton's orders are for tanks to close to 700 yards before opening fire, because anything less is cowardice.  

There's also an interesting snippet of a post claiming to quote a report from 1951, and another similar statement posted here.  Quoting the latter:
This information comes from The Range and Angular Distribution of A.P. Hits on Tanks, Ballistic Research Laboratories, Aberdeen Proving Ground MD, December 1951 (Project TB3-1224B, Memorandum Report # 590) 
This study was an analysis of the range and angular distribution of casualties and hits on tanks in WW II (NW Europe). It notes number of reported tank losses for 1st US Army, 3rd US Army, and the reports from the British Army. 
"Mean engagement range for Allied tanks vs German tanks was 701 yards.
1st Army mean range was 760 yds
3rd Army mean range was 615 yds
British 2nd Army mean range was 644 yds 
According to the charts 87% of all engagements resulting in casualties were at more than 200 yds, 65% was greater than 400 yds. However, only 2% were at ranges greater than 2000 yds. 
It was noted in the report that the range at which most encounters took place was 330 yds - or half the average range. It also noted that most hits were on the front of the hull or turret for US Vehicles, but only for little more than 1/3 of the British tanks was this true.
Several things were concluded during the study: 
1. Four of the five engagements between single tanks went to the tank that fired first.
2. One half of all casualties were caused by a single hit and the average number of hits per casualty was less than two.
3. German weapons could penetrate Allied armor, in most cases, out to 2000 yds, whereas Allied guns could perforate German armor only out to about 800 yds. 
A Map study was also included for Northern Europe and it concluded that the average range that a tank could see another tank from any random point was 322 yards. The probability that a tank could see 1000 yards at any random point in Northern Europe was less than .05 (less than 5%). It was concluded that tank engagements in Europe was controlled by the terrain - thus limiting tank engagement ranges.
So long story short (too late), tanks were, on average, only noting and engaging targets at a few hundred meters, usually, due to terrain . . . a fact that generally favored the Allies.  Certainly combat on Abafar or the Bonneville Salt Flats would play out rather differently, but that isn't where a lot of WW2 tank combat occurred.

Even if we skip the common 300 meter tank combat events and just say a kilometer was the engagement range (ignoring Patton's orders), that's well within hand phaser range, per "Arena".   And a tank is rather larger and more difficult to conceal than a lone Dude-with-Phaser who can hide behind a tree, or shoot his phaser into the dirt and thereby make his own foxhole a la Kirk digging a grave.  A frag round or shot canister could do wonders against him, sure, but they need to have a sense of where he is.

And speaking of stealth, Dude-with-Phaser would literally have to be deaf not to hear a tank 'sneaking' up on him.

And yet, even if we assumed, as does Brian, that tanks would invariably have a range advantage over dudes, that doesn't mean that man vs. tank is a rare thing.   It happened enough that there were techniques created for it (such as turning a bullet backwards in a casing, as in WW1) and guns designed for it, including a variety of anti-tank rifles along with weapons like the Panzerfaust . . . the first version having a range of 30 meters.   A later model bumped this up to 60.

In Scifights-land, that thing must have no right to exist.   Literally, why make a man-portable weapon for attacking a tank when tanks have greater range and thus will win every time, right Brian?

Alas, the reality is that Young's entire concept is flawed.   Even today, we have RPG defenses on tanks and other vehicles, such as the cages on Strykers.   Short ranges happen in many settings, not just urban ones.  Did he not watch Return of the Jedi?


The basic reality of Phaser vs. Tank without Young's strange and irrelevant ideas is that Dude-with-Phaser can one-shot a Sherman and a Sherman can one-shot Dude-with-Phaser in similar timeframes.

Whoever observes the other first and fires first probably wins, just as in WW2 tank combat.  For one-shotting, the tank can be said to have range, if for no other reason than telescopic sighting. Dude-with-Phaser would be relying on Mk. I eyeballs.

But no sane combatant is going to stand around exposed awaiting long-range fire, and Dude-with-Phaser is easier to conceal than a tank. The tank is also louder in motion and comparatively blind when buttoned up.

Put simply, then, Dude-with-Phaser is like WW2's Dude-with-Panzerfaust with ten or twenty times the effective range and far better kill-shot potential.

The likely reality barring combat on Abafar is that, though the tank can readily outpace Dude-with-Phaser, Dude-with-Phaser can generally choose whether or not to engage provided he employs a modicum of stealth.   He can hide, make foxholes, lure in the tank, et cetera, just as surely as the tank can choose whether or not to approach, provided the dude's stealth efforts break down.

My personal preference in a mountainous terrain like the Korangal valley where tanks would have limited utility anyway would be to phaser a little tunnel with a tiny 'window' facing the valley/road and pull a "Death From Nowhere" snipe of the tank.

Bear in mind, if I were handed a phaser and told to go kill a WW2 tank, I'd wet myself but take on the mission.   However, I would most assuredly not take on such a mission against a modern tank without a lot more pants damage.   Whereas a WW2 tank was virtually blind when buttoned up, a modern tank is swarming with sensors and computer controls, to the point that I would not feel confident enough in being the first to fire to want to go to that dance.  I'd feel a lot better with a tricorder with which to emit an IR-defeating "thermal scattering field" ("Macrocosm"[VOY]), along with other tricks.

Given what we saw of the AT-ST combat on Endor, though, it looks like I wouldn't have to worry as much as I would against a modern tank.  They never even saw the Ewoks coming.

In any case, seemingly as a fallback position, Young also appears to be trying to suggest in two other videos ("Snowspeeders" and "AT-AT vs. 14 vehicles" which appeared between his two phaser versus tank videos) that the AT-AT shares none of the weaknesses of the AT-ST.  But, in the end, that's a red herring, too, just serving as a backstop should his AT-ST apologetics fail.

Which, I daresay, they have.


  1. I said "even though we have seen phasers be used to draw lines on a wall straighter and far less wiggly than one could make with any laser pointer (proving remarkable accuracy)"… but did not emphasize it. Suffice it to say that the easiest way to do this would be to have gyroscopic stabilization of the same sort referred to in regards to phaser rifles. It would feel funny to a modern hand… there would be a slight/initial bit of resistance to movement… but it could be rock-steady on target. When you ponder the non-wiggly cutting action of Scotty in "The Naked Time" or Worf and Yar in "Too Short a Season", then try holding a laser pointer steady at the same short range, you'll have proven the gyro concept to yourself.

    Aiming at something visible 1.4 kilometers away just got a lot easier, then, even without the seeming eye-aiming that off-axis-firing represents.

    Put simply, I suspect pistol aim would be as accurate as rifle aim today. Maybe that's why the TOS version of the hand phaser had a scope.

  2. Deep Space Nine: Return to Grace
    "KIRA: This is a standard issue, Cardassian phase-disruptor rifle. It has a four point seven megajoule power capacity, three millisecond recharge two beam settings."

    Range: ?????
    Rate of Fire: 20,000 Rounds Per-Minute
    Cartridge: 4.7 Megajoules
    Output: 1566.66667 Megawatts or roughly 1.6 Gigawatts

    Voyager: Retrospect
    "KOVIN: Terawatt powered particle beam rifle, four microsecond recharge cycle, ten kilometre range."

    Range: 10 Kilometers
    Rate of Fire: 15000000000 round a minute
    Cartridge: 40000 joules
    Output: Assuming only 1 Terawatt to be ultra conservative