Skip to main content

Video Above: Army Research Lab Advances AI to Land Drones on Tanks

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Supporting advancing infantry with mechanized support, bringing heavy firepower to armored confrontation and “holding ground” are all critical missions performed by heavily armored Abrams tanks, a tactical circumstance which is unlikely to change in the near and mid-term future.

Abrams Tank

That is the view of many senior Army futurists and weapons developers, who now pursue a dual pronged path involving efforts to upgrade and evolve the Abrams tank and also explore possibilities of building lighter weight, faster and more expeditionary armored platforms.

Abrams Tank

Abrams Tank

“I do still think you need something that does what a tank does on the battlefield,” Mr. Douglas Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told Warrior in an interview.

Some of the cutting edge efforts involve rapid development of unmanned systems and robotic vehicles able to operate in dangerous forward positions exposed to enemy fire without placing soldiers at risk. 

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

Other work involves the maturation and ongoing testing of lighter-weight composite materials intended to provide Abrams-like protections with advanced combinations of materials. 

There may also be ways to continue upgrades to the Abrams tank which involve blending composite materials with traditional heavy armor. Bush explained that ongoing innovations are shaping new approaches to mechanized warfare and driving a need for new equipment. At the same time, he also stressed that there continues to be an indispensable role for the Abrams tank, at least for the coming years.

Video Above: Acquisition, Logistics and Technology - Future of Tanks

“Now in the future, it might be that some robots work with manned platforms perhaps. But in the near term, certainly near to midterm, I think the heavy tank still has a role in successful combined arms warfare, because ultimately, it's about achieving the objectives. Infantry still needs fire support, you still need something that can cover ground quickly and hold it, you still need something heavily protected that can take damage from, the continuing growing threats of anti tank weapons from across the board. So I think there's still a role,” Bush said.

There may be a point wherein an autonomous or semi-autonomous armed, tank-like robotic vehicle can perform many of the operational tasks associated with tanks, yet these kinds of developments are likely to rely upon continued command and control from human decision makers. Nonetheless, forward operating armored vehicles able to perform an increasing range of functions autonomously, while under enemy fire, certainly improves survivability and adds new dimensions to Combined Arms Maneuver.

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization