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20th August 2014

DARPA aims to revolutionise tank design

The U.S. military is researching possible designs for a new generation of stealthier, faster, more mobile tanks.


darpa future tank concept designs


For the past 100 years of mechanised warfare, protection for ground-based armoured fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: more armour equals more protection. Weapons’ ability to penetrate armour, however, has advanced faster than armour’s ability to withstand penetration. As a result, achieving even incremental improvements in crew survivability has required significant increases in vehicle mass and cost.

The trend of increasingly heavy, less mobile and more expensive combat platforms has limited Soldiers’ and Marines’ ability to rapidly deploy and manoeuvre in theatre and accomplish missions in varied and evolving threat environments. Moreover, larger vehicles are limited to roads, as well as requiring more logistical support and are more expensive to design, develop, field and replace. The U.S. military has now reached a point where – considering tactical mobility, strategic mobility, survivability and cost – innovative and disruptive solutions are necessary for a new generation of armoured fighting vehicles.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has created the Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program to overcome these challenges. GXV-T seeks to investigate revolutionary ground-vehicle technologies that would simultaneously improve the mobility and survivability of vehicles through means other than adding more armour – i.e. avoiding detection, engagement and hits by adversaries. This improved stealth and mobility would enable future U.S. ground forces to more efficiently and cost-effectively tackle the varied and unpredictable combat situations of the 21st century.


old vs new tanks


“GXV-T’s goal is not just to improve or replace one particular vehicle – it’s about breaking the ‘more armour’ paradigm and revolutionising protection for all armoured fighting vehicles,” says Kevin Massey, DARPA program manager. “Inspired by how X-plane programs have improved aircraft capabilities over the past 60 years, we plan to pursue groundbreaking fundamental research and development to help make future armoured fighting vehicles significantly more mobile, effective, safe and affordable.”

Technical goals include the following improvements relative to today’s armoured fighting vehicles:

  • Reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent
  • Reduce onboard crew needed to operate vehicle by 50 percent
  • Increase vehicle speed by 100 percent
  • Access 95 percent of terrain
  • Reduce signatures that enable adversaries to detect and engage vehicles

DARPA says these four technical areas are examples of where advanced technologies could be developed that would meet the program’s objectives:

  • Radically enhanced mobility – ability to traverse diverse off-road terrain, including slopes and various elevations; advanced suspensions and novel track/wheel configurations; extreme speed; rapid omnidirectional movement changes in three dimensions
  • Survivability through agility – autonomously avoid incoming threats without harming occupants through technologies such as agile motion (dodging) and active repositioning of armour
  • Crew augmentation – improved physical and electronically assisted situational awareness for crew and passengers; semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of  key crew functions, similar to capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits
  • Signature management – reduction of detectable signatures, including visible, infrared (IR), acoustic and electromagnetic (EM)

DARPA aims to develop GXV-T technologies over a period of 24 months, from 2015 to 2017.


darpa future tank concept


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