Video Above: Army Research Laboratory is engineering new rocket, missile and artillery rounds
(Washington D.C.) The Army’s recent very large multi-billion v3 Abrams tank buy seems to indicate the service’s confidence in the platform as well as an awareness that there simply may not at of yet be any kind of equivalent able to address a new sphere of emerging threat dynamics.
The very large Abrams tank buy also raises some interesting questions when it comes to what combat will look like in future decades, such as how might an upgraded Abrams integrate with the much anticipated high-speed, AI-driven, multi-domain combat environment expected to be much different than an Army land force might face at the moment?
There is of course a massive emphasis upon drone command and control, networking, long-range sensing, high-speed maneuver and of course expeditionary combat and deployability. Perhaps this is why some are now raising questions about how the Abrams v3 is heavier than the variants it is replacing. Could this impact, or limit combat operations? How?
There are several pertinent and pressing things to consider here. One of them is simply that the Army is already working with major industry weapons developers to concurrently engineer a new generation of faster-lighter weight vehicles, yet they are likely intended to fortify or fight alongside an upgraded Abrams.
There are some areas where an Abrams might have limitations with things like accessing close-quarter urban areas or crossing bridges, yet the upgraded Abrams new generation of mapping, sensing and connectivity with overhead surveillance drones, and even growing real-time networking with forward-operating, senor-enabled dismounted infantry, can help tank crews identify an optimal avenue of approach potentially less encumbered by mobility restrictions.
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For example, should a bridge or narrow area present restrictions for an Abrams, advanced networking, for location data and mapping might quickly calculate new alternative transport routes.
As tracked vehicles, increasingly likely to operate nearby unmanned systems, Abrams tanks can transit over fields, rocky areas and uneven terrain, making it more likely it could find alternative routes in the event that it encounters impediments. Finally, mapping of an area prior to a mission can identify passable routes for the tank.
Also, an Abrams upgraded weapons and target identification systems are now much longer range and engineered with much higher resolution, enabling the tanks to provide fire support to infantry from expanded vantage points.
For example, there are many roads, off road terrain or tough-to-transit areas which an Abrams equipped with added access to navigational detail and intelligence data will be able to find and access more quickly.
Mechanized armored columns can also maneuver with a transportable bridge able to accommodate the weight of an Abrams, therefore enabling an ability to cross rivers, breaches or some otherwise impassable areas which an attacking formation might suddenly encounter.
Overall, all of this seems to point to the fact that even at a heavy weight, the Army seems to be planning for a future warfare environment in which the Abrams tanks maintain a unique, designated and unparalleled place. .. at least for the next several years.
Kris Osborn is 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 Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.