Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Next Armored Fighting Vehicles

So new tanks and infantry carriers will be optimized for urban warfare?

Army Futures Command is just a means to an end: modernizing the Army for high-intensity war against Russia or China. That includes replacing the iconic but aging M1 Abrams main battle tank, as well as other war machines, with an all-new Next Generation Combat Vehicle optimized for urban warfare, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

I'm not so sure about the wisdom of optimizing the Army (or its vehicles) for urban warfare.

And I do want to know how infantry supports tanks when the tanks are firing off active protection systems to survive while far less protected supporting infantry become collateral damage.

I'm starting to think that the infantry should have two types of infantry fighting vehicles: One heavy enough to travel with tanks on the move carrying only a small infantry contingent; and another light enough to bring up and support full squads of infantry for dismounted combat.

This is a logical conclusion of my 2002 argument that we cannot  have lethal, well protected, and strategically mobile armored vehicles as the FCS program aimed to get (see article starting on page 28).

Tanks should be paired with infantry carriers based on the tank hull, with only a small dismount force and otherwise using remote weapons stations on the carrier operated via reachback technology by infantry to the rear, as I discussed in this Infantry magazine article.

But in general, infantry should be carried by cheaper, lighter vehicles that are produced in larger numbers capable of carrying a full infantry squad and provided direct fire support to them for dismounted combat. Ideally, these operate in a lower threat environment less exposed to enemy direct fire than the advance-to-contact environment requires.

Active protection systems are necessary for everything, of course, despite the threat to dismounts (and civilians in the urban areas, which I also noted in that 2002 article). Tactics that keep infantry away from the APS kill zones will be needed.

Yes, eventually there will be unmanned units to supplement manned units. Then, when protecting crew is no longer a universal need, we can really explore the possibility of using lethal but lightly armored and relatively simple unmanned ground systems directed by crews in heavy well-protected vehicles. The unmanned systems would be designed to be semi-disposable (with modules that can be salvaged from wrecked vehicles and used again) and replaced often as mass produced items.

I mentioned these Main Battle Tandem pairings as a replacement for the Main Battle Tank in this proposed article that didn't meet the cut for the Army Mad Scientist contest a couple years ago.