TARDEC: Army must re-think doctrine to cut vehicle weights

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — If the Army is serious about wanting to reduce the weight of its vehicles, then it has to seriously re-evaluate how it operates and not depend so heavily on material science, said Paul Rogers, the director of U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

“If you really want to go after vehicle weight in a disruptive manner, material science is an aspect of it but we really need to start challenging our doctrine, our conops, and our reliance on other technological means,” Rogers said here Friday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium.

Vehicle weights have significantly increased as commanders look to protect their troops from relatively basic threats such as improvised explosive devices that littered the roads in Iraq and Afghanistan. With those increased weights, Army leaders have complained about losing their speed on the battlefield.

Rogers explained that to lessen those weights, too much is expected from material science. Unless there is a major break through in material science, Rogers said the Army can expect to reduce tank weights by only about six tons over the next 30 years.

However, if the Army was willing to take some risks and re-think the way it operates, it could slash vehicle weights.

“If you really want to get down to a 20 ton platform, lets take the soldier completely out of it and lets leverage autonomy out of systems,” Rogers said.

With soldiers coming out of Afghanistan after 12 years at war, Rogers said it’s time the Army take some risk in vehicle weights. Rogers said he’s interested in working with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to reconsider how the Army operates in its armored vehicles.

It’s time for the Army to consider the vehicle as a member of the squad, Rogers said. Soldiers should be able to depend on their vehicle to collect real time data for them and provide analysis. Vehicles should be better connected to unmanned vehicles collecting information overhead.

Heidi Shyu, the Army acquisition chief, has focused the Army to better sync their Science & Technology efforts to deliver better equipment on the battlefield quicker. Rogers said she has forced TARDEC to look beyond five years. He said that has helped understand future technologies and will help them take educated risks.

“I think this is a time to take risk. I think this is a time to incentivize ourselves to take risk. The longer planning horizons allow us to do that,” Rogers said.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • Lance

    This negates GCV since they want lighter vehicles for Operations the M-1 is the current heavyweight and the Army want6s small and light. a GCV that’s heavier conflicts with this new doctrine.

  • blight_

    If they want expendable vehicles and light weight, we can have teleoperated Humvees with TOW launchers be the first wave of the attack against Iran.

    If you take the DU out of an Abrams, it will still weigh about 60 tons. Do you go with a lighter, more compact engine? Do you reduce fuel tank size? Do you reduce the size of the gun and rounds stowed? Thinner composite armor?

  • kiwiwni

    One of Fred Saberhagen’s visions is on the horizon…

    • ziv

      I was thinking more on the lines of Keith Laumer’s Dinochrome Brigade. Even a Bolo design has to start somewhere. Can you imagine being a tank commander of an M1 platoon with an unmanned M1Bolo that you can send into any particularly tough spots using the imagery from a variety of UAV’s and from all the vehicles in your platoon?
      Then just have it follow behind the platoon when it is not needed. On the flip side can you imagine the complaining about which crew is going to be tasked with maintaining it? LOL!

      • Navbm7

        Both of you are correct. But consider this; if you have a remotely operated tank on the battlefield how can you keep the enemy from hacking the signal and turning your own weapon against you?
        Nice in Sci-fi, not so practical today!

        • Phono

          the question is not if it is possible or not, but how often this would probably happen – wich is a question of decryption

      • blight_

        Every Bolo had a human operator and unmanned operation was not a preference. The [Edit: later mark] Bolos were sentinent machines, and generally not teleoperated. They were issued fragmentary orders in a human, natural language sense, and used their powerful sensor systems and advanced intelligence to decide on the best way to achieve these ends.

        Bolos could synchronize with each other using the TSDS, which networked the Bolos into a Beowulf cluster to combine their computing power and to coordinate.

        Early marks used personality separation and privileged access that required a in-vehicle human operator to activate their full potential; killing the operator required cutting through the machine in such a way that the Bolo itself was probably toast.

        A vehicle that could synthesize sensor inputs to point out IEDs or enemy targets for humans to shoot at; even without direct control inputs would be immensely useful.

  • Will Leach
  • dee

    “if the Army was willing to take some risks and re-think the way it operates…..”

    Whenever we look at an organization, any organization, and we consider the fact that often when it takes additional risk(s) we must consider that often the goal post is moved for defining the risk and quantifying the severity of the risk and too much “acceptable risk” is on boarded. As a result this creates an opportunity for a foe to exploit it. Look at the battles of Fallujah we went in there the 1st time expecting to steamroll the insurgents. The 1st time they were prepared and pushed back hard. The 2nd time we deceived them into giving away strong points and to identify their routes through their defensive positions. They exploited our arrogance and we exploited their inability to see the bigger picture.

    • majr0d

      You might want to relook the task organization and size of the second force. The size of the force was tripled and heavy armor made increased from 10 to 30%. Intel definitely helped but it was a smaller part of the anvil that came down on them.

    • Pat

      I think the 1st Fallujah batle was stopped because we didn’t want to cause excessive civilian casualties (similar but not quite why we let the Republican Guards get away whne we stopped the war after 4 days which was partly due to the scenes from the road of death that actually cost relatively few lives) and not because of insurgent pushback.


    I think autonomous tanks are a great idea

    • johnvarry

      Behold the coming of BOLO

  • Chinese government

    We think computer controlled tanks are great idea.
    Also, we completely reject the latest accusations that the Chinese government is engaged in hacking your computers.

    • Rob

      I believe it was not the government. There are large hacking groups in China that have been on western internet through proxies for years savaging money. They have made enough to strengthen their groups and have learned ways around many things on the net.

      They steal game accounts. They sell our kids virtual items for real money and get away with it. They get into everything. Email, forum accounts, banks. Even they try to get into my work’s accounts.

      I am American born and raised and have much respect for China and it’s people but this cyberwar just emboldens iran and North Korea to push is all into war soon if keeps escalating like this. Doubt you are from China at all but if you are you need to stop these groups. Or atleast try.

  • Chris

    Sounds like a difference of opinion within the Army…….

    • johnvarry

      General MvNair was a artillery officer who’s doctrine was tanks for infantry and tank destroyers for anti-tank. Tigers and Panthers had been encountered only in small numbers and could be defeated.

      In 1942 the Sherman was one of the best tank on the battlefield. By 1943 the Sherman was still felt to be good enough. By late 1943 it was clear US needed to update Sherman or replace with a tank with better gun and armor. By late 1943 Gen McNair agreed on a 76mm gunned Sherman.

      The Brits offered the US the 17lbr but the US refused and concentrated on developing their own gun.

      Armored Forces Commander Gen Devers wanted a heavy tank with 90mm gun. Ordanance Dept wanted a heavy tank with 76mm gun. McNair was opposed to any heavy tanks. Devers went over McNair’s head to Gen Marshall. Marshall is the one who authorized the Tiger Force T26E3’s be sent to ETO.

      Knowing the US would need a “Assault tank” to assault defended positions for Invasion of Europe the Tank Corp built the M4A3E2 Sherman “Jumbo”. The Jumbo was intended to carry a 75mm gun.

      Armored Command pulled a sleight of hand. The turret design used for the Jumbo was based on the T23 prototype. The turret’s gun manlet and gun mounts were designed for 75mm or 76mm.

      When Jumbo’s arrived in Europe all the maintenance depot had to do was grind out gun manlet opening for larger barrel and 76mm bolted right in. Ammo boxes were converted to 76mm.

      IMHO Tank Corp will not be able to drop the M1’s weight enough. We will see either a new tank based on GCV or a new light tank. A CV90-120 would be interesting.

  • majr0d

    Sadly more BS. If we want to cut vehicle weight we have to accept risk to troops. That isn’t going to happen.

    Robotic vehicles and UAVs are cool (and appeal to the American affinity for high tech solutions) but we looked at this hard with FCS where almost every vehicle had its own drone and even the robots had robots. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ICZYRoZkeA

    We also know that vehicles without infantry don’t do well for long in any environment just check the Israeli experience in ’73. We also learned in FCS experimentation that the enemy kills robots and then you have people doing the dangerous stuff again or even worse with really expensive/capable robots there’s a tendency to use grunts (human lives) to protect or recon the situation before committing the robot!

    • tmb2

      When these discussions come up around family or the office, I love to share a few anecdotes from the Iraq surge. In 2007 the EFPs were shredding humvees and with more troops in country we had more casualties. We shut down the EFPs not with gizmos or hiding behind the newly arriving MRAPs, but rather finding the staging and assembly areas for the IED teams and the guys building them. We figured that out by taking some risks, going out on foot and looking for them and talking to people.

      • majr0d

        tmb – WHAT!!! No new fangled tech that smells when people are thinking about IEDs and can be employed from a drone at 20,000 feet?


        • riceball

          Speaking of smelling, the Army actually experimented with people sniffers during Vietnam. The idea was to use these “sniffers” to actually try to smell where the VC were hiding in the jungle and on the Ho Chi Minh trail.

          • blight_

            Fido, find the VC. We will direct several cells of B-52s to you shortly.

            Good boy…

  • tee

    News Flash ( Pentagon Grounds JSF Fleet After Turbine Blade Cracks; ‘Potential Exists For Catastrophic Failure’).
    . http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/22/f-35-f

  • dubweiser101

    I think we’ve reached the pinnacle of heavy armor… Time to consider less conventional, and traditional ways of projecting armor onto the battlefield. HOVER TANKS BABY!

  • Godzilla

    It is probably possible to do a modern tank with only 2 crewmen with little reduction in overrall responsiveness. 1 pilot and 1 weapons operator. If you use an autoloader you do not need a loader. If you use sensor fusion between vehicles in the battlefield, and automated target detection, the load on the weapons operator will be reduced so much that the previously separate positions of tank commander and gunner will probably cease to be necessary. So you will need half the internal volume for people in the tank. If you reduce the interior volume of the tank, you reduce the amount of armor required to protect the tank crew as well reducing overall tank weight.

    I would not be surprised if there were more material breakthroughs relevant for armor in the next decade given modern composite materials design techniques.

    Today’s “light” armored vehicles e.g. CV-90 would be in the 20-30 tons class just like the M-2 Bradley. Hence a lot heavier than a BMP-3. In WWII terms they would be the same weight as medium tanks there. The T-34, Panzer IV, Sherman were all in that weight class and constituted the bulk of the tank combat forces of those powers.
    There were heavier tanks but those were used for breakthroughs or urban combat scenarios.

    • majr0d

      Sounds impressive but automated target detection is decades away. Identifying targets that don’t want to be identified, differentiating them from friendly vehicles and prioritizing targets based on theat to the vehicle and mission accomplishment is a daunting challenge. If we were able to create software to do all the above identifying IEDs would be child’s play not that we shouldn’t stop trying.

      Then there are other issues. Maintaining a 35T armored vehicle with a three man crew in combat is tough especially some of the more difficult tasks like getting unstuck or replacing a thrown track that weighs hunderds of pounds if not a ton. I can’t see two men doing it. Finally add 24 hr continuous operations and a two man crew will become combat ineffective relatively quickly.

      Just some other thoughts.

      • Godzilla

        Actually I think biggest crew reduction should happen in the heavy tanks where the largest amount of armor is necessary. Regarding threat indication there is evidence to suggest man-machine combinations are superior: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/136446-darpa-c

        Arguably the driver could also have more computer assistance for driving the vehicle itself. It may be that 2 crew is still not achievable and the maximum reduction possible is to 3 crew, which is done in several tanks already, but the fact that you need less armor for less crew still applies.

        The CV-90, and other vehicles like that, is designed to carry the crew (commander, driver, gunner) and an infantry section (8 troops) so these sorts of modifications do not apply there as much. In such vehicles you are better off using modular armor so you can apply heavier armor in the necessary environments and things like Shtora i.e. an electro-optical jammer to prevent the use of missiles and other guided munitions against the vehicle or thermal stealth which is starting to become available.

        Just like the USAF uses a hi-lo mix of F-15, F-16 and soon F-22, F-35 the US Army used to use a medium tank, heavy tank combination with the M26 Pershing and M4 Sherman tanks. This stopped being relevant once the opponent was the USSR. Both nations changed to an MBT doctrine during the cold war. Although there were scout tanks as well like the PT-76 or the M551 Sheridan, the US no longer has such vehicles in their stocks. While the Chinese do, because of Southeast Asia and Vietnam no doubt, namely the ZBD2000 which is a 20 ton 3+8 IFV with 105mm rifled gun (ZTD05) or 30mm autocannon.

        So there is a definite lack of 20-30 tons armored vehicle in the US inventory compared to other nations including the Chinese.

        • majr0d

          Godzilla – Tech is cool. It’s nowhere where it needs to be. Rule of thumb is DARPA is a decade or more away from an actual operational system. The tech described is in the PVS 20 that has a mode which will provide the user a computer generated outline that groups thermal images. It can be extremely distracting as you wear it and depend upon it for your life. What the story doesn’t share is how many times the software missed a target and what’s the outlook for picking up vehicles & aircraft.

          Agree on three man crews are possible (still a bear on maintenance and continuous ops). It would lessen weight (Russian tanks tend to be smaller/lighter). Note the performance of 3 man crews against 4 man crews.

          PT76s and the ZBD2000 can be penetrated by .50 cal fire from the flanks. 20-30 ton vehicles have some real issues.

          The ZBD2000 has very light armor and is developed to conduct amphibious landings. It is an IFV. It will not do very well against a force well equipped w/ATGMs or even light AT weapons. Then again the Chinese have a lot of men.

      • David

        not a fan of autoloaders?

  • blight_

    The take home is that the engineers are saying that the army cannot wish away the weight problem without trading survivability, and I’m not sure how long it will take before they get the memo.

    At least they’re being honest about it. Beats eliminating lightning resistance from your jet fighter just to meet a weight limit….

  • chockblock

    This is an insane fantasy. You can’t have a vehicle with the protection the Army needs, the firepower it wants and the speed it has to have.

    The A6M Zero and HMS Hood scarified armor for speed, Both blewup when faced with opponents that could reach out and touch them.

    The M-1 is a mighty glacier but it works.

    The dumbasses at TARDEC don’t want to pay for the logistics, the tractor-trailers, aircraft and Support brigades needed to maintain the force.

    They picture some sci-fi fantasy tank that somehow weights a third of an M-1 but is just as lethal and protected.

    Put the numbers in and the computer will give you a sad face.

    Scrap the program entirely, upgrade the M-1 and the M-2/M-3 and call it a day. Oh and fire Paul Rogers and others who think like him. They need to stop playing with powerpoint.

    • davidz

      Actually, A6M performed pretty well in its role.

      Late German tanks were mighty glaciers, they somewhat worked, but I wouldn’t call this a success.

      • Godzilla

        Agreed the A6M was superb when it was designed and entered use. The problem is many of the early WWII designs were utterly obsolete at the war’s end. Once the A6M could no longer outrun the opposition the low protection levels became more important. This could have been solved later on with higher performance engines and self-sealing fuel tanks.

        The same thing happened to the Panzer I, II, III. The designs did not have enough protection and firepower in the later stages of the war. The Panzer IV is arguably the most successful German tank of WWII because the turret ring was designed large enough to accomodate a larger weapon and it had good all round armor protection. The Panther and Tiger tanks had too many issues and low production rate to be called truly successful. The King Tiger had more downtime with transmission and engine issues than actual combat damage. Around that time the shortage of strategic materials meant German armor and projectiles were subpar anyway. Not very good.

        • zak

          Bah, garbage. The A6M did well against the trash it faced in China but it barely managed to have an edge against out outdated Wildcats. It’s advantage in maneuverability was negated by the tactics the Wildcat pilots used. And the P-38 wrecked havoc among the A6M’s by using smarter tactics also.

          The Panthers and Tigers were vastly superior to the Sherman despite the fact that their slave labor production workers constantly sabotaged the tanks before they even left the manufacturing plant. How well would the Shermans look if they had been sabotaged in the factories? The problems the Germans had was the inability to produce them in quantity and then supplying them with fuel.

  • bigdaddy

    I agree with some of the things he says and not with others. I can see this guy never rode in a M113 or fought from a M1. The way battle works is to have over lapping systems. You can’t just have M1 tanks, you need many other vehicles for support. The infantry does the work the tank blows everything up in front of them, they protect each other. With the way combat is in populated areas the king of the battlefield was always heavy artillery, it’s useless now. So a change in doctrine is necessary, right now the DOD has no clue were they are going to fight again, bet it’s another war fought within the population of a country. Why do you need 70+ ton behemoths to do that? The reason is because we don’t really fight to win, we play volley ball with guns.

  • Denny

    Lightness is desirable for a multitude of reasons, but the gold standard when building a fighting system is still combat effectiveness. So until we achieve a breakthru in lighter but equally effective armor, propulsion and armament, heavy systems like the M-1 remain absolutely essential to deter or defeat peer or near-peer opponents. We can lose a hundred low-end fights with terrorists or irregulars and our national security will likely still be essentially intact, but if our Army is outright defeated in one major slugfest everything we value could be threatened.

  • we chan

    I buy 4 for my boats new navy gun fire and forget I shot ever target down ace in sky always long live USA

  • riicky

    Look at that beautiful tank.

  • John D

    If weight is a factor then why is the army clamoring for th behemoth IFV bigger than an Abrams! Doesn’t anyone talk to each other about ideas, future tactics and purchaces in th eDoD or is everything stovepiped!! Like buying 5 differenk kinds of low quarter shoes when one would suffice!! Or a dozen different camoflage like the territory changes with the service employed on it!

  • SJE

    I agree that some rethinking is necessary, but they need to keep the option of heavy armor. The M1 is great, except for the parts about transporting it to theater, fueling it, driving across small bridges. Its also expensive to buy, and run. We can’t escape the fact that budgets are going to get cut.

    So, go for a basic tank design that is lighter, but easily retrofitted for more armor, bigger gun, and bigger engine, as needed. Match the flexibility and ease of fixing from the Sherman with the possibility of performance in a King Tiger. e.g. you might have a lighter armored, but bigger engine and gun for rapid advances across the desert. For urban warfare against irregulars, a lighter gun (e.g. 30mm autocannon), but heavy armor and engine to protect against IEDs. The same lighter design could also be retrofitted for semi-autonomous control from a main tank that is heavily armored.

    • zak

      It would probably be less expensive to just have 2 different designs – just look at what happens when you try to make 1 design that does everything – you end up with the skyrocketing JSF costs.

  • Dfens

    I’d like to see the Army go to wing-in-ground-effect vehicles. They could fly a few feet above the ground at about 100 mph and would be relatively immune to attack by IEDs or mines. Plus they could cross bodies of water without a bridge and would be able to operate in a wide variety of traction conditions including over snow, ice, and mud. It’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking they sorely lack.

    • blight_

      If the Marines had a WIG amphibious transport instead of a hovercraft LCAC, they could moot the whole EFV is-it-a-boat-or-a-IFV design compromise argument.

      That said, hovercraft for ground use would be cool, but they’d still be vulnerable to IEDs. That said, with enough explosive power you could damage a floating vehicle, or if you used EFPs the standoff would help shape the slug.

      • we chan


      • Dfens

        Wing in ground effect vehicles are a lot faster than hovercraft. Sometimes you see a combination of the two in a single vehicle. The speed plus the fact they don’t touch the ground make them hard to target with an IED. They won’t activate a pressure switch and they move fast enough that the timing of a hand triggered device has to be perfect. They also don’t announce their arrival minutes in advance, so unless someone is prepared to be on the switch of an IED 24 hours a day, they are likely to be late on the button. Hell, they don’t even have to stick to roads, for that matter.

    • gogoody

      I like thaat! how about using the proven Apache design, with pilot and gunner, on a hover craft like vehicle. Use technology from the f-35 hover engine concepts. If you have to touch the ground then use Stryker wheels. Make the thing thiner, like the apache. it can maneuver through narrow corridors, on the ground, or feet above it or even above the buildings 2-3 story, sit on roof tops, take in the view. It is a multi field player and the opposition doesn’t know how to counter something that can be in several possible locations. Ground/Air/roof tops.., etc.. If the terrain is mined, or too steep for climbing, then fly there. What the Apache can do with 30-50 MM and hell-fires, the tank does. The Apache/Tank hybrid is the way to go.

      • Dfens

        Typically ground effect lift only extends up to 1/4th of your wing chord (the distance from the tip to the tail of the wing) high, so to operate above a 3 story building it requires a very large vehicle with a 120 foot wing chord. That length of wing chord would probably require a wing span of around 300 feet or more. Without having a rotor, you could mount the guns on the top of the vehicle instead of the bottom like helicopters do.

    • majr0d

      Ground effect vehicles are very inefficient when it comes to carrying armor/ammo/weapons/payload. Since most ground combat operations (e.g. patrolling) happen at low speeds these vehicles would be moving like conventional vehciles without the protection/firepower. While moving at low speeds they would also be vulnerable to all the threats vehicles are typically coping with to include getting stuck.

      • Dfens

        If you actually knew what you were talking about instead of just being a paid apologist for the status quo you’d realize that WIGs are great for carrying cargo, which, to no one’s surprise but yours, is why the Soviet Union used them as cargo transports, but why argue with an agenda?

        • majr0d

          The Soviet Union’s WIGs were HUGE, basically the size of ships and soley used for amphib warfare. Not a realistic.solution for anything but flat areas which cities aren’t. Amphib warfare? Sure. Inland? Ridiculous.

          Instead of making up that I’m being paid how about addressing how these vehicles are going to carry tons of armor so they have a chance of surviving when they are not in ground effect mode? How do you conduct a patrol of a city at 100mph? How do you attack a position at a 100mph when you stop and find that ground effect vehicle doesn’t have the weapons and armor to survive?

          You can’t. Your “out of the box” thinking is “pie in the sky I’ve seen too many sci fi movies”. I do have an agenda. Stop the stupidity.

          • Dfens

            Yeah, vehicles that travel 100 mph need lots and lots of armor. Ever hear of Blitzkreig? Our tanks are barely mobile Maginot lines. Great tributes to your status quo thinking, because everyone knows what is is best!

    • zak

      You’ve watched too much Transformers. You’re still going to have a lrge amount of weight with the main gun, engines and armor (assuming you’re not crazy enough to forego armor altogether) so how will you get enough lift and thrust to make it fly?

      This is pure Sci-fi.

  • jakck

    How about putting a diesel in the M-1A2s or does that make too much sense?

    • greg

      It makes perfect sense. That is what they will end up doing after wasting a few billion experimenting. Proving a use case though can be good.

      I wonder when reality will hit and they discover that an upgraded Bradley can be on par with most IFVs.

    • blight_

      Changing out the engine won’t save you weight, but has been suggested for greater fuel economy (which is also good).

      • greg

        That is why I am suggesting it. The M1 tank’s main problem in my opinion is fuel consumption. Weight is just fine.

  • Ronny

    Google “helltank” for an interesting idea – one that fires hellfire missiles.

  • gogoody

    not only would the tank/apache hybrid be airborne, with the turbine engine, but it can turn it to move forward/back/sideways. On the ground it just pushes, or the turbofans, gears to drive wheels. Hell they can build anything if they set their minds to it.
    KEEP it SIMPLE!!!

  • Muttling

    People love to talk increased risk until the risk turns into reality and then its a blame game before Congress. NASA went through this exact same routine and had some impressive failures like the Cassini Probe. Instead of saying “lets accept an increased risk” they should be real about it by saying “lets accept increased casualties in future wars.”

    • majr0d

      Yes but those that don’t want to address risk are the ones that encumbered our men with every piece of body armor to the point they looked like the Michelin man, couldn’t chase down the enemy and were suffering back injuries because of all the weight they were carrying.

      Those that don’t realize risk will result in death are just as bad as those that believe we are in a push button high tech age where war can be fought with no casualties. That attitude saddles us with vehicles that prioritize survivability over every other criteria.

  • BobsYourUncle

    The fantasy: the whole army deployed anywhere in the world with 24hrs notice or less. The reality: only infantry can be deployed in such a way and only Airborne forces can do it without secure airfields already in place. No heavy equipment, no armor, no artillery, no chance against a reasonably equipped foe.

    To carry out an operation of any significance and to have more than 24hrs of staying power you need armor, you need artillery, you need a heavy pile of supplies. If its heavy and you need more than one or two, it has to go by ship. So to have armor and to have artillery, you need enough time to go by sea.

    Making it lighter means it won’t be armored. Now you’re back to no staying power. Using a computer to run throwaway bot tanks means they will be dumber than Paris Hilton. Despite what the egg heads say, machine stupidity is still (and will be for the foreseeable future,) a massive problem. An electronic analog to animal instinct and intuition has yet to be found. Would you really want to put the killing power of an M1 Abrams into the hands of a two year old retard with no common sense? That’s what you’ll be doing if you give it to a computer. (no offense to the mentally challenged intended, but offense to computers is.)

    Asking for a lightweight, bullet proof army with overnight delivery to anywhere in the world guaranteed is like asking for a perpetual motion machine. If running an army were really that simple, anyone could be a general. But wait, that’s what they really want. Something Paris Hilton could command using nothing more than a twitter account, that way political alignment can be made the only requisite for generalship.

    PS the use of Paris Hilton as an example of incompetence is not motivated by sex or hair color. Its about her being a totally worthless airhead. Of which I am certain a great many male, brunette examples also exist.

    • zak

      You’ve introduced reality into their fantasy world, kudos!

  • PNS

    Oh. Sorry.
    I thought that this was another article about Chris Christie.

  • yaniv

    this is the beautiful tank.

    מעצבת פנים משרדים

  • moe sizlack

    Picture this…..the article mentioned taking the soldier out of the equation……why would the army want to take the soldier out of the equation? In the middle stages of the Iraq war, the army was mortified over the casualties that were being taken over lightly armored HMMMwvs. The DoD started the MRAP program in response. And history goeson from there.

    The reason I bring this up is because the reason we have such massive weightsin combat vehicles is because commanders are unwilling to accept high numners of casualties…nor should they accept high number of casualties due to lightly armored vehicles. The main reason these vehicles are so heavy is the armor that provides the protection levels required for safely getting the crew and passengers to the battle front, and completeing the mission with the least amount of risk.

    If we start with cutting armor protection to save weight, or relying on active protection systems that can fail for protection, how may soldiers will die trying to fight the wars we ask them to fight?

    • blight_

      The other issue is that the present army cannot handle injury churn the same way that larger armies can. In WW2 they trained replacements en masse and pushed them to their divisions on the fly; and I’m not sure that the Army has enough slack in training units to push casualty replacements in real time. And in units that aren’t fully manned, manpower losses that aren’t replaced are more painful.

  • gogoody

    not only would the tank/apache hybrid be airborne, with the turbine engine, but it can turn it to move forward/back/sideways. On the ground it just pushes, or the turbofans, gears to drive wheels. Hell they can build anything if they set their minds to it.

    • blight_

      Like an aircraft family with conventional takeoff, catapult capable and STOVL cousins?


  • FatTail

    Fast and Light only makes sense for Offense and Recon. The US is great on Offense anyway, but you are going to be on Defense more than Offense. If you want to be safe then, armor weight is paramount. It is rally arguing over the same coin, but two sides.

    I assume, a high/low, light/heavy mix is not possible in limited funds. I would prefer heavy then.

  • Rob C

    Reducing the weight of the next generation of MBT isn’t completely a bad idea. They want fuel efficiency, which makes perfect sense. New armor technology may make it possible while reducing the size perhaps half the size. Only problem i have is the automation, with any technology, specially computer related. There maintenance, this stuff breaks down. You’d have to have a pretty dedicated company out there, support them just provide support for this increase automation. Japan’s medium tanks have auto loaders, which is fine. Have they actually used them consistently enough see how they’ll run down in a non-peace time situation? Not like they’re deploying their tanks globally.

    Automation/tele-operationing tanks concerns me. Being on the ground is differient thank being remotely numerous miles away. Frankly going full on Bolo/AI controlled tank, would open the vehicle to being jacked by Hackers or worse a virus. I still think a low tech solution, specially with US Military still having to get grip on all those legecy equipment out there been obsoleted and expensive to replace within a 2 decades of service. M1 still not obsoleted. Just not fuel efficient.

    • zak

      Survivability trumps fuel efficiency every time.

  • Shail

    “….If you really want to get down to a 20 ton platform…”

    OK, what again exactly is the rationale of 20-ton combat vehicles?
    Oh that’s right: over-dependence on USAF C-130 fleet to move Army hardware at Army’s dicretion.
    Tried it with Stryker and it was proven impossible to move said Stryker Brigade Combat Team anywhere in the world in 96hours. Hell, we can’t even do that with C-5s and C-17s.
    Theoretically MAYBE, but there again, that assumes the USAF will just drop every other mission those aircraft have and ready them at the Army’s timeframe requirements, and no number of USAF brass will ever OK that.

    The chokepoint here then in this 20-ton fallacy is obviously the conceptualized C-130 dependency. So the solution moreso should be, slap some sense into the USAF for a new AMST type aircraft (query YC-14, YC-15), a 30-ton cargo capacity is way more leeway/legroom to play with than 20 tons, and gives us much better opportunity for a vehicle design.
    Obviously no AFV weighing umpteen tons over an Abrams will fly, literally. Not in C-5s and C-17s for very far without expensive aerial refueling. Float them there,…put need new port facilities to offload their heavy outsized @sses.

    • SJE

      If you need quick response, and don’t want to maintain huge overseas bases, what do you suggest?

  • Kirk

    Well why not upgrade and revamp the Stingray tank ? Add DU, a more powerful powerplant, revamped turret with autoloader. Wider tracks(maybe M1) and M1 main gun. Alot of off the shelf schtuff could make for a decent 35-40 ton AFV.

  • Jeff

    I think people are running on the idea and ignoring the reasoning behind it. This is about meating all the goals and demands that are being placed on the next generation of vehicles. As it is, those goals and demands are unattainable short of an eureka moment that revolutionizes science, which simply is like winning the lottery. So if the goals are unrealistic and contradict each other, obviously the Army has to rethink its goals or rethink how the vehicles are intended to operate.

    The problem at hand is that vehicles are too heavy to be as mobile as they need to be. The problem is risk aversion thats turning every light vehicle into a mobile fortress and every tank into something very limited in where it can go. The proposition at hand I think has merits. By emphasizing autonomous and semi-autonomous capabilities in vehicles you mitigate the risk to life in a way armor can’t. By strengthening the integration of traditionally heavier capabilities you have a more direct line of support to infantry. The other part of this suggestion is that it doesn’t have to be in place of traditional capabilities. The Army would still have Bradley-like vehicles, without the growing waist line, but also these slightly more expendable autonomous vehicles as a buffer.

  • Terry

    Strykers are not bad vehicles they are pretty quick and there are so many types almost any type of weapon systems can go on them
    All they need is a v haul for an upgrade.

    • greg

      Where have you been. That has been a program of record for years now. There are v-hull strykers in Afghanistan now.

  • William_C1

    Do we really need to repeat the FCS MGV program debacle? The technology isn’t there yet.

    Aim for something more achievable. Like 40 tons in the most basic configuration. This should allow for two vehicles per C-17A as opposed to one.

    The M1 Abrams still has a lot of life in it too. We should go ahead with an M1A3 upgrade and postpone any plans for a whole new MBT. New vehicle development should focus on replacements for the M2/M3 Bradley and M109A6 Paladin. Eventually you could use the same chassis and components for a vehicle to supplement or replace the Abrams.

    Spare Bradley hulls could be re-purposed into replacing all of the M113 hulls we currently use as mortar carriers, ambulances, command posts, and so forth.

    The Stryker is a useful asset, but we don’t need any more Stryker brigades. Those units should refocused on being a fast to deploy, mechanized infantry force. They shouldn’t be expected to compare heavier designs in terms of armor protection.

    The idea of a dedicated vehicle like the cancelled M8 AGS to support airborne units is worth considering, but that would involve the Army having some extra money.

  • guest

    I think you guys are missing he point. The issue can be broken down to 2 main points:

    1. manned versus unmanned – canwe remove the solder from the equation or at least reduce the number of soldiers

    2. active or passive armor: until now tanks have relied on more and better passive armor to protect the troops. thicker steel and more sophisticated armor – this weighs alot. The other option to is to go to more active armor like the Israeli Trophy system or other active protection systems, They are lighter but may be more complex and expensive

  • chrisgoike

    Does anyone else worry that by taking the people out of the hardware to limit casualties just invites greater desire to use it?
    “Hey lets send those tanks in to secure things, what have we got to lose!”
    Besides that the problem is more basic. Fight wars to win and not for a draw and constitute your force for just such a thing. Fight. Win. Impose. Leave.

  • DocScience

    Let’s see, we are going into town surrounded by BG’s with IED’s, mines, and anti-tank missiles.

    I can have one 100 ton supertank, 5 lightweight target practice tanks, or 200 half ton weapons.

    How about taking the DARPA/Boston Dynamics “big dog” and mounting an autoloaded 105 recoil-less rifle on it for serious work. One with a MK19 launcher on it for less serious work and another one with an articulated arm mounted M134 with a respectable amount of ammo for just raising all heck. All with thermal/night sights. Maybe give them a pressurized hydraulic quiet mode that lets them walk 100 yards with the engine off.

    And give these gun platforms to every platoon. And swarms of them to every armored brigade.

    Am pretty sure that some serious whoop@ss would result.


    I don’t see the argument here. Supposedly, tanks such as the Challenger and the Leopard II are similar, if not better than, the Abrams. So whats with the weight cut down? Keep the a low as possible with every piece of kit available, not just keep the weight low. If you are so desperate, military, do this: take the 120 off, and add a big laser. Problem solved. In place of all those rounds of ammo, put a relatively safer power generator. Then hook it up to the laser. And bam. Whats more, I don’t remember a laser beam being vastly effected by wind. What is important is to keep the platform steady. There you have it.

  • Rob

    Keep the heaviest at home and front line defense bases only. Everything else should be designed for mobility. Unless we are planning large invasion, tanks have little use.

    In today’s battle field I wonder thou. Which is really easier to disable.. a tank, a MRAP, helicopter or a jet. Whichever has the most survivability should be mostly used.

  • Wings33

    Elite US light divisions are routinely trashed in excercises against German units with 3 ton Wiesel tankettes. They and their Hummers also took heavy losses against 3rd world light infantry in the Middle East. In contrast, crappy MRAPs and Striker trucks do pretty well (withstanding mines, RPG’s, small arms fire) against them, despite having poor reliability and mobility (in cities, cross country, and over poorly developed roads and bridges). We would do much better with well designed tracked armored vehicles. We should develop families (tanks, APC’s, arty, cargo) of 4t, 8t, 16t, and 24t vehicles. Light units would deploy with the combo of vehicles they select for the mission. If you are fighting Hajis in Toyota pickups in mountains, an 8t tracked vehicle that climbs like a mountain goat and spews 40mm Bofors shells 10 miles and 40mm grenade 2 miles is a pretty nice gadget. If we had competent military leaders working with a dramatically improved state department, we would not need to deploy the entire army to small conflicts. We should be hiring and training locals to do most of the work. Learn from Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Afg folks! Sending hundreds of thousands of invading troops on “presence patrols” doesn’t work!

  • Wes Cooler

    An important lesion I learned in Ranger School: there is security in speed. I think that bears examination when designing vehicle systems.

    • Kirk

      For some things maybe. But remember from history, the old BattleCruisers were built with the idea of that spped was armor. Really didnt help too much.