The tanks of the future will reinvent (and simultaneously minimize) the very concept of “armor”. DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program will swap armor for technology and brute strength for maneuverability.
Forget the slow, lumbering behemoths with giant, smoothbore cannons and rotating turrets. The futuristic designs will jettison heavy plate armor for an entire apparatus of sensors and advanced systems that can identify threats and deploy countermeasures, react autonomously, or otherwise outmaneuver them.
DARPA’s GXV-T project has three goals:
1) Allow reduced crew
2) Lower operator workload
3) Minimal training required
To accomplish this, the slimmer, lighter “tanks” will use giant HD displays with advanced IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) systems that ascertain threats and provide terrain and route guidance. Instead of absorbing enemy fire, it’ll respond intelligently to the given situation.
The video below details three distinct ways it can respond to a threat: repositioning armor, short bursts of speed, or reconfiguring the vehicle, itself, to dodge incoming projectiles. Presumably, the system will autonomously react based on the nature of the threat, with electronic speed and reflexes.
We’ve actually been trending toward systems like this for awhile. Humvees have given way to Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, while even our stoutest armor, including the M1 Abrams, proved vulnerable to explosively formed projectiles – these relatively low-tech weapons use a concave material and deform it into a deadly projectile, capable of penetrating nearly anything in our arsenal.
So the solution isn’t to add more armor and more bulk to vehicles, like the MRAP, that already have a high center of gravity. Rather, DARPA aims to leverage our superior technology to evade danger altogether.
The concept art looks more like a generic Sci-Fi all-terrain vehicle than any conception of a “tank,” but the simplified GXV-T creation will respond better to emerging threats and our modern adversaries. And as the video shows, it could also match well against enemy tanks – when you take away the tanks’ firepower and accuracy, they’re just well-protected slugs.
It’ll probably be at least a couple years before concept becomes reality, but DARPA is definitely headed in the right direction.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense