What vehicles will the U.S. Army use to fight in the “megacities” of the future?

U.S. Army General Robert Abrams, Commander of U.S. Forces Command, recently spoke at the Future Ground Combat Vehicle (NGCV) Summit in Michigan. He suggested that global demographics will have a significant effect on the way the Army fights wars in coming decades, particularly with regards to its combat vehicles.

“Megacities” are defined as those cities with populations over 25 million people. The Army will need ground combat vehicles capable of dealing with the unique challenge of operating in such urban environments.

His remarks were summarized at

Dense, urban terrain diminishes the effectiveness of fighting vehicles, which are impacted by obstacles, large civilian populations, and confined spaces, he noted. In such confined spaces, enemy dismounts are better able to isolate individual vehicles at close range, and employ anti-armor fire and IEDs of all types.

If Abrams’ name sounds familiar in the context of ground combat vehicles, it should — his father, U.S. Army General Creighton Abrams, was the celebrated combat commander for whom the Army’s Abrams tank was named.  Two of his brothers were also general officers. But the General alluded to a future battlefield where main battle tanks like the one bearing his family name may not be the Army’s best options.

Abrams observed that the number of megacities worldwide is expected to double by 2035, which is also when the Army will take delivery of the NGCV. In such environments, the Army will need a vehicle with a reduced logistical tail (such as needing less fuel and components that need to be replaced less often).  Other desirable features identified included:

— Reactive armor
— Active protection systems
— Artificial intelligence
— Autonomy and/or teaming
— Advanced target sensors
— Lasers
— Precision, extreme-range lethality
— Potential to accommodate future upgrades

Abrams also spoke about the age old trade off between armoring vehicles to make them more survivable, and trying to make them more agile and maneuverable. He noted that reducing vehicle weight without reducing armor will require advances in material science.

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