Can a lightweight unmanned ground vehicle pack the punch of an Abrams tank?

Anyone who has any experience with combat vehicles understands the critical trade-offs that are accepted when any new design is fielded.

For example, the vehicle with the armor you want won’t be as fast as you want. The vehicle with the most lethal weapon system will require the daily effort of a specially trained technician just to maintain its turret. And so on.

But the Army is looking to leap ahead and eliminate some of these trade-offs by taking the crew out of the vehicles. Business Insider reports:

US Army LIVONIA, Mich. — Within five years, the Army would like to start testing remote combat vehicle prototypes, known as RCVs, which are unmanned, as light and as fast as a Stryker, but provide the same level of firepower as an M-1 Abrams tank, said Maj. Alan L. Stephens. Stephens, an Acquisition Corps officer at the Mounted Requirements Division of the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, spoke at the Future Ground Combat Vehicles Summit here, Nov. 30.

By making a vehicle that can act autonomously (i.e. driven by software and reacting according to information taken in by sensors) or that can be driven via radio link from a manned vehicle nearby, the need for crew space inside the compartment is eliminated, allowing for more capability in a smaller package. According to Major Alan Stephens, this is what would make it possible to pack tank-like firepower in a lighter vehicle:

Since RCVs will be unmanned, that frees up a lot of space for direct and indirect fires capability, he said, along with a full suite of sensors and counter-unmanned aerial vehicle packages. An example of an indirect fire system, he said, is the 81 mm mortar. Direct fire would be what an Abrams’ main gun can deliver.

Read more at Business Insider


For more on the Army’s evolving thinking on operational requirements and combat vehicles of the future, also see: What vehicles will the U.S. Army use to fight in the “megacities” of the future?

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