Army Looking at Leap-Ahead Technologies for Next-Generation Tank (UPDATED)

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
M1A2 Abrams

Photo: Defense Dept.

The Army is taking its first steps toward fielding a new tank, the service's chief of staff said July 27.

“We do need a new, ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks,” said Gen. Mark Milley during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Russia is currently working on a new tank known as the T-14 Armata. The system is expected to enter service in 2020. While asked about the implications of the Armata, Milley did not address the threat it could pose or what it would mean for the United States and its NATO allies.

However, Moscow overall represents a serious threat to the United States, Milley noted.

“It is clear that Russian military capability is significant and … is the only country on Earth that represents an existential threat to the United States because it has the capability of nuclear weapons,” he said. “Other countries have nuclear capabilities as well but only Russia has the actual capability to destroy the United States.”

Additionally, the country has been making significant investment in the modernization of its conventional weapon systems over the past 15 years, he said. 

Milley has a group “digging deep” into what a new U.S. tank might look like. The service is looking at a variety of new technologies that could be incorporated into such a system, including new armor, he said.

“The real sort of Holy Grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material — is the armor itself,” he said. “If we can discover material, and there’s a lot of research and development going into it, … that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.”

Advanced munitions are also on the list, he said. 

“We’ve been using kinetic or power-based munitions for five centuries and there are advances in non-power kinetics,” he said. Lasers and railguns are two evolving weapon systems that could be incorporated, he said.

Robotics will also be key for any new vehicle the Army procures, Milley said. “We probably need to make sure it’s dual use so that the commander on the battle at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned. They can flip a switch and it can be a robot,” he said.

The Army currently operates the M1 Abrams that came online in the early 1980s. While the design is approaching 40 years old, many of its components have been upgraded, he said.

“We have a good solid tank today,” he said. “The M1 tank that you see today visually looks exactly like the tank from 1980 when I was a second lieutenant. It is not exactly the same tank. The insides of that thing, … the firing mechanisms, the engine compartments, the armor, etc, that’s all been upgraded and modified over the years.”

As the Army pursues the development of new technologies, so are other nations. Mechanized warfare remains a serious concern, he said. “Have tanks and mechanized war and conflict between ground armies ... gone the way of the dinosaur?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

Update: This article was updated to include additional quotes from Gen. Milley.

Topics: Land Forces

Comments (1)

Re: Army Looking at Leap-Ahead Technologies for Next-Generation Tank

Russia cannot afford to field the T-14 in numbers that would make a difference. Russia has an economy not quite the size of New York's. More scare mongering.

NorthEastern at 1:19 PM
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