Video Above: Top Army Weapons Buyer Details Future Attack Technology
Army deliberations about how to somehow reconcile a specific paradox fundamental to future armored vehicles have continued for as long as several decades. The problem at hand involves vehicle weight, technology, and survivability. Futurists and weapons developers are exploring how to engineer a light-weight, deployable and highly lethal armored vehicle with the levels of survivability needed to withstand heavy incoming enemy fire and prevail in major armored warfare.
The question is whether that can actually be done as there may be little or no substitute for the protection and firepower of heavily armed manned platforms like an Abrams. At the same time, keeping the Abrams does not preclude or diminish the possibilities for engineering faster, lighter weight and potentially unmanned vehicles to operate alongside a heavy tank. The Army seems to be pursuing both. Why not?
Abrams Main Battle Tank
Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, Director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told Warrior last year that the service was looking into both heavily armored solutions as well as unmanned systems and lighter-weight manned alternatives. Coffman said the Army plans to keep upgrading the Abrams while also studying new concepts for a new Optionally Manned Tank platform.
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“We are gathering information in the form of studies, maturing technologies and doing deep dives into what will be required from a decisive platform in the future. We are in the exploratory phases and do not want to take anything off the table when it comes to the best thing for our soldiers in the future. We are exploring characteristics and not requirements and looking at broad solutions to known problems,” Coffman told Warrior.
Much of this leads to a lingering question with no real answer … at least not an answer at the moment. Will there be a replacement for the Army’s upgraded Abrams main battle tank? Should there be? Ultimately an entirely new platform may arise, but many questions remain open, such as how long until that happens?
Will there still need to be a vehicle built with heavy armor to withstand heavy enemy mechanized attacks? Perhaps a new Abrams-like platform, should it come to fruition, will be a large, heavy vehicle with Abrams-like armor protection. At the moment, there simply may not be anything with comparable protective performance which can replace it.
Is the answer lightweight armor composites? A new, impenetrable Active Protection System? Or, perhaps the optimal solution lies in the fast-emerging phenomenon of manned-unmanned teaming.
The largest factor in this entire equation relates to a collection of unprecedented innovations to soon be revealed by GDLS on the as-of -yet unmanned “Abrams X” future tank.
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.