Although 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.[amazon template=image&chan=default&asin=1399131828][amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B007MRZVQ2]