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Is Poland’s Stealth Tank PL-01 a Game Changer?

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polishtankAlthough it had been announced in 2013, the joint Polish-British tank concept has only recently been noticed by the media. The tank is certainly dramatic in appearance, though this may ultimately change if the design goes into production. But is it futuristic enough?

Featuring technologies that make it hard to detect and track through radar and infrared sensors, this small tank (only40 tons), which can also be remotely controlled and act as a drone, is certainly promising.  But today’s combat platforms need more than stealth.

Stealth capabilities are certainly essential for new generation of tanks. Modern MBT’s (main battle tanks) like the Abrams M1 are visible to radar and infrared sensors and visibility spells doom thanks to anti tank missiles, which can be mounted on helicopters and even drones.

This tank probably uses a version of BAE’s adaptive camouflage technology that can render the vehicle invisible to infrared. Radar absorbent coating is used to reduce its radar signature. A special exhaust cooling system reduces the heat signature of the tank’s 900 hp engine.

 

But more than stealth features are needed. Recent experience also showed that tanks, indeed all vehicles, are vulnerable to asymmetric measures such as improvised explosive devices.

Which prompts a question about the tank’s armor, which, given the vehicle’s total planned weight, cannot be conventional Chobham armor or similar composite plates. Unless the tank will compromise on armor, its weight suggests that it will have a new kind of armor protection. One possibly is an exotic nano-material such as carbon naotubes or graphene, which could in theory provide this light tank with highly sophisticated armor.

The real question, however, is the extent to which this tank will be cloud-centric or part of a distributed operating system through which all of Poland’s weapons systems and soldiers can interact, allowing for unprecedented situational awareness and the ability of a force to convert seamlessly from a defensive posture to an attack.

If Poland does go ahead and ultimately acquires F-35s, how will that platform integrate with other systems in Poland’s arsenal, including this proposed tank, and operate as part of a cloud? At the center of such a cloud necessarily stands a significant radar capability, such as AEGIS, also distributed through digital links to hardware on various platforms such as aircraft AESA radars, but Poland has not announced any plans for such a platform. What will really matter in the future of combat will be networks of weapons systems rather than single platforms.

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About A. Jurek

A. Jurek is one of the editors at Blogcritics. Contact me at: a.jurek@blogcritics.org
  • cindy

    Tanks are bad things. Wars are bad things. We don’t need any more of either. Now, be a nice fellow and find something nice to write about.

    • moderate Guy

      If wars are bad thing, you need tanks to prevent them from happening.

      • cindy

        Yeah, that’s the dominant thinking. We can see how well it’s worked out.

        • moderate Guy

          Better that what you are proposing.

          • cindy

            Yeah, I can see how destroying other cultures and extincting wildlife while heading toward irreparable destruction of the entire planet is much better than what I’m proposing. Now, please explain to me what have I proposed.

          • moderate Guy

            If those other cultures let themselves be destroyed, likely they weren’t worthwhile. The planet is not being destroyed so chill out, toots. And what you are proposing is that we disarm if we want to avoid war, which is about the dumbest idea there is.

          • cindy

            I don’t think I could say anything more about you or your ideas than your own words have.

          • moderate Guy

            Not if it takes you 2 weeks to come up with a single word, anyway.

          • cindy

            Wow, I am so wounded and impressed by your repartee. Do you happen to know the I’m rubber, you’re glue one? ;-)

          • moderate Guy

            Oh good; you’ve progressed to 3rd grade. How many years did that take?

      • Teddi

        I don’t see this tank as truly stealthy…

        • moderate Guy

          Nice pun?

    • Teddi

      Wars are bad things. If you come up with a way to get rid of the evil people who start wars, then you can eliminate the need for weapons. America is exceptional in the sense that it has answered the call to end a majority of wars it was involved in – a noble cause.

      To that end, weapons must be available to allow us to end wars and liberate those people suppressed by them.