Modern tactical battlefield

The tank warfare just few years ago was being dubbed as ‘history’ after the invention of military satellite, ISR technologies, unmmaned aerial vehicles and robotic technologies but Russia has once again proved in Ukraine war that tanks are still relevant for 21st century warfare.

Suddenly, both Russia and the US are caught in crossfire for developing robotic and most sophisticated tanks for their militaries. While the NATO will go for CV90 Adaptive tank and US made GCV tank by 2019, Russia has already gone for mass production of world’s most deadly Armata T-14 tank which will be deployed by 2017.

There is a saying that the tank with the most experienced and well trained crew would win despite new technologies. However, tank crew training and experience is always the most important factor in Tank on Tank combat and would be even more so in that match up.

No doubt, the technology can add vital values but it is sill and strategy which will make it really worthy. Indeed, militaries are working to create an invisible tank using nano and other top end technologies.

Once the tank goes invisible then it can wreck havoc. Adaptiv-an armor encasing that looks and feels as one imagines a dragon’s scales to-turns tanks into chameleons, allowing them to disappear into the environment behind them or to even look like a snow drift, trash can, crowd, or a soccer mom’s station wagon.

A product of BAE working alongside the Swedish Defence Material Administration, Adaptiv flaunts the very latest in camouflage technology.

Research began at the end of the nineties in Sweden to look at the proliferation of sensors on the battlefield and to consider how they could meet this threat and defeat the advantage those sensors could give the enemy. The team looked at the best thermals to date and reverse engineered them focusing on 500 meters.

Infrared, used by devices such as night-vision goggles or aircraft, essentially sees in hot and cold, unlike the human eye. Adaptiv uses the reliance on thermals in the battlefield against adversaries by manipulating these hot and cold readings to deceive the surveillance.

A system of more than 1,000 5.5-inch hexagonal tiles made of thermo-electric material gives the tank its chameleon-like capability, which can confuse (if not convince) an adversary into thinking it is looking at something it is not. Hesitation can give the warfighters a few more seconds - which may be the difference on the battlefield.

The tiles or pixels can rapidly change temperature directed by thermal cameras that monitor and quickly project adjustments onto them to conform with the tank’s immediate environment.

In its blending mode, it matches the temperature of its surroundings melding into the background to avoid detection.

“If you cannot see it, you cannot kill it,” said Hakan Karlsson, director of marketing communications at BAE Systems. Blending can even be achieved when the tank is moving, and initial trials suggest that blending is at its best at 300 to 400 meters.

To transform into an entirely different object, Adaptiv draws from its pattern library organized by terrain and projects itself as something native to the immediate area. For example, if it enters an Artic environment it can conjure up a polar bear and project itself as one so sensors scanning for a tank see a harmless animal.

Adaptiv is not limited by its pattern library however, and can even go chameleon on the spot shifting into something it has come across in its immediate terrain.

For example, if it is entering an urban environment it can take a snapshot of an object on the street like a dumpster and then immediately change its appearance to be read as one to scanners.

The armor also serves another very important purpose. Friendly fire is always a concern, and demarcating to your force as a friendly and not hostile is key. This signal needs to be discreet as well, so that you are not advertising to the enemy.

Planes, for example, sometimes use a method of radiating their identity in all directions, whereas Adaptiv is capable of signaling its identity to only the friendly side.

By projecting onto its skin a marker similar to a barcode, it can indicate it is a friendly in a way that is only readable to its force.

Balancing weight with protection is always a challenge. Heavy armor may seem to make soldiers safer but the additional weight can slow a vehicle down and reduce its agility-thereby increasing possible risk.

The CV90 tank Adaptiv has on display was a smart choice. It carries the punch of a tank while weighing approximately half of the average tank.

Adaptiv adds armor, can withstand ordnance and physical impact, consumes low power and is relatively light weight so it does not affect agility or movement. If a pixel is damaged, it can easily be removed and replaced.

The pixels can be scaled up or down so there is a range of other applications as well, from taking helicopters and warships stealth to rendering fixed installations invisible. Adaptiv could be a game changer.

Russian T14 Armata

There have been two general reactions in the West to the first public glimpses of the T-14 Armata tank, the first completely post-Soviet Russian design for a main battle tank.

The first is to view its claims-of greater speed, maneuverability, firepower and survivability vis-à-vis anything being produced for Western armies.

The Armata T-14 tank, produced as part of Russia’s £250billion military update programme, even has the capability to become completely automated-making it the first fully robotic tank in the world.

The tank’s main turret is also operated by remote control, rather than having the crew situated inside it, improving their chances of survival if the tank is hit. Instead the crews are locked inside an armoured pod, which is also separate from the tank’s ammunition store.

If the outer armour of the tank is hit, it is designed to explode outwards, potentially detonating any explosive rounds fired at it, and preventing heavy shells from penetrating inside and killing the crew.

Its designers also boast that the main weapon, a 125mm smooth-bore cannon, which can already fire four miles further than Britain’s Challenger 2 tank, is ready to be replaced with a much more powerful 154mm weapon, though this is ‘not necessary at the moment’.

Some 20 units of the world’s first series-produced third generation main battle tank, designated T-14 and based upon the new Armata universal chassis system, have recently been delivered to the Russian Armed Forces for training purposes.

The Armata may be more effective and safer than Russia’s Soviet-era tanks, but in its current version it is hardly a vast leap ahead in tank design, according to Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a defence think tank.

When the tank enters serial production, slated to start as early as next year, Armata will come standard with a 125 mm cannon capable of firing several types of shells and even anti-tank guided missiles-but these munitions are already fielded by older and cheaper Russian tanks like the T-72.

Though the cannon is a new design, “Armata will be using ammunition manufactured for the T-72,” said Pukhov. This will leave Armata firing shells with shorter range and lower impact velocity than Western analogues.

The Armata is highly automated compared to its Soviet predecessors, featuring an advanced targeting system that makes it faster and more accurate than older tanks.

It also represents a new approach to vehicle construction more in line with Western tank design’s focus on armor, offering its crews better survival prospects than any other Russian tank ever fielded. Beneath its armored shell, the crew is sheltered in an isolated capsule forward of the tank’s turret, which is controlled remotely.

But while the tank may not be a game changer, it may represent a shift in Russian thinking in the field of tank design.

While the tank will certainly boost Russia’s military strength if deployed in great numbers, Russia has little immediate need for the tank.

A force of the older T-90s, the mainstay of Russia’s tank corps, would be sufficient for Russia to throw its weight around the near-abroad. Rebels backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine have given Kiev a run for its money with far less.

Instead, other factors such as a higher regard for crew safety in post-Soviet Russia, and greater exposure to Western design philosophies, contributed to the design of a new tank, Pukhov said. From Armata’s manufacturer-UralVagonZavod, Russian military hopes to procure up to 2,300 of the Armata tanks.

According to Russian MoD sources, by 2020, Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), the largest main battle tank manufacturer in the world, plans to produce 2,300 T-14 Armata models.

Large deliveries of the tank (around 500 per year) will start in 2017. In total, the Russian Land Forces are scheduled to receive a batch of 32 Armata main battle tanks this year.

The Russian military intends to replace 70 percent of its tank corps with the new tracked vehicle, replacing the older T-72 and T-90 main battle tanks-both of which were also produced by UVZ.

The Russian military envisions the universal chassis system as a platform for as many as 13 different tracked vehicles, including a self-propelled artillery platform, an armored military engineering vehicle, and an armored personal carrier.

The tank’s main armament is the 2A82 125-mm smoothbore cannon, capable of firing high-powered munitions, including armor-piercing discarding sabot, guided missile, shaped-charge, and other types of munitions.

The T-14 is equipped with the Chelyabinsk A-85-3A X-diesel engine capable of producing up to 1500 hp. It also has a tank information control system (TICS) that monitors all assemblies and components, diagnoses malfunctions, and controls onboard systems.

The muzzle energy of the 2A82 123-mm smoothbore cannon is greater than that of the German Leopard-2 Rheinmetall 120 mm gun, according to media reports. The tank also boasts fully automated ammunition loading and completely computerized targeting systems.

The T-14 tank will be equipped with an adjustable suspension capable of adapting to varying relief, terrain type, and vehicle speed, resulting in increased speed while moving in columns, as well as over rugged terrain.

The suspension system will also alleviate crew fatigue, while assisting the fire control system to deliver accurate fire while on the move.

Unlike previous Soviet/Russian vehicles, crew safety (survivability) and comfort appear to be a concern. The crew is in an armored capsule that is somewhat roomy compared to other Soviet/Russian tanks.

The tank’s turret will also carry a 30 mm sub-caliber ranging gun to deal with various targets, including low-flying aerial targets, such as attack planes and helicopters.

A 12.5 mm turret-mounted heavy machine gun is reportedly capable of taking out incoming projectiles, such as anti-tank missiles. It is capable of neutralizing shells approaching at speeds of up to 3,000 meters per second.

First, the active defence system deserves special attention. It is an individual anti-missile and anti-projectile tank defense system, supposedly capable of intercepting any type of anti-tank ammunition.

It defends the vehicle from strikes, including those from the air. Thus, even the most modern Apache helicopter will not have a 100 percent chance of destroying a T-14 with its missiles.

Active defense is situated along the entire perimeter of the turret at various levels, which ensures complete protection of the tank’s most important elements.

Second, the location of the crew is also quite unique for a Russian tank (as is the vehicles unmanned remotely controlled turret).

The crew of three men is located in an armored capsule in the forward portion of the hull. According to the specialists, the forward projection has multilayered, combined armor protection which can withstand a direct hit of any type of rounds which exist today, including sub-caliber and cumulative rounds.

An absolutely new main battle tank is certainly not something most of the world’s exiting armies can boast about.

The German Leopard-2 tank was developed 35 years ago, just like the American M1 Abrams. The existing versions of the western tanks feature many improvements, but the basic characteristics do not differ much from the original. The Armata is the first genuinely new tank construction since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

German Leopard-2NG

The Leopard 2 Next Generation (NG) upgrade package for Leopard 2 main battle tanks was developed by Aselsan of Turkey as a private venture.

It was first revealed in 2011. Sometimes it is referred as the Leopard 2T. It could meet a potential Turkish Army requirement to upgrade its fleet of over 300 ex-German Leopard 2A4 MBTs until the locally-developed Altay MBT becomes available.

The Next Generation upgrade package is also proposed for other operators of the Leopard 2 main battle tanks. This tank is still used by a number of countries in large numbers. So the market for upgrades remains substantial.

The Leopard 2 NG is broadly similar to the Rheinmetall Revolution MBT upgrade package, which was revealed earlier in 2010.

The key areas of improvement in the Leopard 2NG upgrade include new fire control system, upgraded optics and improved protection. The Aselsan claims that upgraded main battle tanks are superior to the German Leopard 2A6 MBTs.

This main battle tank has improved protection. It is fitted with add-on modular armor package. Tank also has add-on mine protection modules.

Composite add-on modules are made of advanced materials, such as ceramics and light alloys in order to absorb and minimize impact. Damaged modules can be easily replaced in field conditions. Also these can be upgraded when new armor becomes available.

Weight of the Leopard 2 Next Generation increased to 65 t, comparing with 56.6 t of the original Leopard 2A4. Although it is claimed that it retains mobility of its predecessor.

The Leopard 2NG retains its original 120-mm/L44 smoothbore gun. This gun is loaded manually. It is compatible with all standard NATO tank munitions. A total of 42 rounds are carried for the main gun. 15 rounds are stored in the turret bustle and are ready to use, while remaining rounds are stored in the hull.

US GCV tank

Heavy does not even begin to describe the US Army’s new tank. At 84 tons, the Ground Combat Vehicle prototype weighs more than twice as much as its predecessor, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

The Bradley is designed to carry a six-man squad (and three-man driving crew) into combat, while the GCV will carry a larger, nine-man squad. Both vehicles will provide covering fire and damage enemy tanks.

But the US military has built the new GCV to withstand a kind of threat that didn’t exist when the Bradley was deployed in the early 1980s, improvised explosive devices

Part of logic behind the new tank’s massive size is that soldiers inside a vehicle are more likely to survive an explosion if there’s adequate space for them to wear armor while seated.

The extra space also helps distribute pressure from the blast and thus lessens its impact.

Another reason the GCV is so huge is that it’s required to carry a larger gun than the Bradley does; the new tank will hold a 30mm cannon, probably the 344-pound Mk44 Bushmaster II.

Finally, the GCV’s extra weight means it will need to be manufactured from the start with a more powerful engine. By contrast, the Bradley got heavier as the Army added armor to it in Iraq, and its original engine wasn’t powerful enough to support the extra weight.

The Ground Combat Vehicle is pretty much the opposite of the original plan to replace the Bradley. A high-concept proposal called Future Combat Systems aimed to make all US Army vehicles lighter.

But during the long ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (in which IEDs were the top cause of fatalities), it became clear that heavier, not lighter, was the better vehicle design.

The US canceled the Future Combat Systems program, and work on the GCV began in 2009. The Pentagon is scheduled to award the first contract to manufacture GCVs in 2019.

Russian T90 tank

The Russian T-90, a hybrid evolution of the T-72 and T-80, weighs in at almost 48 tons, and would lead Russia into battle if a major land conflict erupted today-not a crazy idea anymore.

The T-90, nicknamed Vladimir in its later iterations, came about from post Cold War Russia’s initiative to keep only one main battle tank in production, the simpler and more reliable T-72 or the more complex T-80. The resulting T-90 is an effective warrior that balances capabilities and complexity against cost.

The Russian T-80 main battle tank takes the American A1 Abrams route when it comes to a power-plant, packing a gas turbine engine capable of putting out 1000 hp (versus the Arbams 1500hp).

The use of a turbine over a tradtional diesel engine left the tank with decent power but with dismal range. Additionally, this configuration was prohibitively maintenance intensive.

In effect, the T-80’s logistical demands on the battlefield were a severe hindrance to the effectiveness of the type.

In fact, Russia’s “turbine tank” was so unpopular that the Russian Armor Ministry apparently swore that they would never support going the turbine route ever again. In later variants, the T-80’s thirsty and finicky turbine was replaced with a more traditional diesel engine.

Where the T-80 shined when compared to the simpler T-72 was in its targeting system and self-protection systems. Still, the T-80 design was vulnerable when it came to high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rockets that were fired at it from the side.

This, along with sub-par training, chaotic logistical support and less than optimal tactics, led to the loss of an unacceptable percentage of T-80s during the First Chechen War of the 1990’s. Still, the tank soldiered on in Russian inventory until just last year.

As part of Vladimir Putin’s initiative to rearm and modernize Russia’s military, Russia now relies on upgraded and battle-tested T-72s and the newer T-90 exclusively.

The T-90 is one logically mean machine. It cuts a low profile and is a marriage of classic soviet simplistic reliability and high tech features.

In fact, a good, way to explain the T-90 is that it is somewhat of a hybrid concept, combining the reliable and proven chassis of the T-72 with the more advanced turret of the T-80, including its more modern fire control capabilities and support sub-systems.

The T-90 is lighter and more nimble than her American counterpart, with the A1 Abrams weighting in at 68 tons compared to the T-90’s 48 tons.

The T-90 is a whopping 40,000lbs lighter than the M1A1 Abrams. The T-90’s lower mass results in a smaller, less expensive package, that can do some fairly spectacular maneuvers, whether it be on the open range or in tight urban environments.

The T-90 is propelled by a supercharged, liquid cooled, four-cycle, 12-cylinder diesel engine with horsepower ratings ranging from around 850 to 1250 depending on the variant.

By choosing not to design a gas turbine engine into the T-90, the Russians allowed for a simplified, smaller, cheaper and more reliable design, which makes total sense after their less than satisfactory experiences with the T-80.

This power-plant choice also allowed for the tank to have close to double the range of the T-80 under ideal conditions, or close to 400 miles on a single tank of fuel.

The T-90 packs a gyro stabilized 125MM smooth bore cannon, but unlike her American counter part, she is not relegated to “just” firing armored piercing discarded sabot (APDS), high explosive anti-tank and high explosive fragmentation rounds.

The T-90’s 125mm can also fire the 9M119 “Refleks” anti-tank guided missile. This laser guided missile can strike ground based and low flying aerial targets at close to double range of the T-90’s main gun.

The T-90 can shoot guided missiles out of its main gun and can even take down helicopters with those missiles under certain conditions. The T-90’s predecessors also had similar capabilities as well, although the system is said to be better refined in the T-90, especially the latest versions.

Unlike the hand-loaded Abrams, the T-90 uses an auto loading system for its main gun. Russian tankers have been heard saying that the Abrams is a bolt action while the Russian T-90 is a semiautomatic.

In addition to the T-90’s big cannon, like the Abrams she packs a .50 cal and a 7.62 cal machine gun, but these are both externally mounted, whereas the M1 packs one of its 7.62 caliber machine guns in an internal coaxial mount right next to her main gun.

The T-90, in its original form, acquired its target using a day/night sighting system which originally lacked range and fidelity in comparison to its western counterparts. Inferior nighttime targeting capabilities have handicapped Russian main battle tanks for decades.

With this in mind, Russia finally looked outside of its borders for a sighting system that could match the versatility and range of their tanks’ main guns.

Although the Russia’s main battle tank of choice is much lighter than its American counterpart, it does have good armor and a fairly robust self defensive suite.

Different configurations of the T-90 exist, but generally the tank relies on a triad of defense measures to stay alive in combat.

First, there is the T-90’s basic armor, made up of varying composite and metal materials sandwiched together. The current mix of materials Russia is using in its armor is said to be very effective and relatively light, albeit not as effective of the incredibly robust armor the Abrams.

Seeing as the T-90 weighs almost a third less, this is hardly a surprise. Russia has learned that layering a tank’s survivalability measures is more cost effective, and in some cases more operationally effective, than relying almost entirely on one single concept of exotic, expensive and heavy armor plating alone.

The T-90’s second tier of defenses relies on explosive reactive armor (ERA). ERA consists of two armor plates with an explosive charge core sandwiched in-between.

This type of armor works against a multitude of attack weaponry, including missiles and rockets that carry high explosive anti-tank warheads, as well as the dreaded sabot round. Sabot rounds are basically cannon shells that separate after leaving the tank’s smoothbore barrel, what remains is a thin fin stabilized rod made of dense material like depleted uranium, flying through the air at high speed and into its target.

Once the sabot round penetrates a tank’s turret, the kinetic force of the dense sabot dart dumping its energy into a small point creates a stream of lava-like molten metal that pours into the tank’s cabin.

This instantaneously increases the tank’s cabin pressure via heating the inside of the sealed turret, thus killing, or should I say cooking, everything inside.

The idea behind ERA armor is that it explodes outward destroying an incoming munition, or at least greatly depleting its killing potential, just as it is hitting the tank. The whole string of events happens in a fraction of a second.

It may sound extremely violent, setting off a bomb on the outside of your own vehicle, but it works, and the charge is designed to fire outward, away from the hull or turret of the tank.

Once the T-90’s threat warning system detects that it is being painted, or was squirted by a laser, a series of countermeasures aimed to defeat an enemy’s targeting process get activated either automatically or manually.

First, infra-red and optical dazzlers, located on the front of the tank’s turret, are slewed in the direction that the laser energy originated from, in an attempt to blind the enemy tank’s targeting sensors.

These dazzlers appear red during combat operations and make the tank seem like it has sinister red “eyes” on either side of its main gun.

Smoke grenades with a very specific chemical makeup can also be fired off from the turret in an attempt to conceal the T-90’s exact location and thus break or keep an enemy from maintaining a weapons lock.

The T-90 also sports a magnetic mine detection system that uses an electromagnetic pulse to disable mines before the tank runs them over.

Additionally, at least some of Russia’s T-90s are fielded with the “Nakidka” signature reduction application. This surface treatment is said to greatly reduce the tank’s radar and infra-red signature via the use of radar absorbent material (RAM) and infra-red reducing paint and insulation.

Seeing as tank detection is more and more reliant on radar, both of a standoff (E-8 J-STARS) and a tactical (AH-64D/E Longbow Radar) variety, applying RAM to the outer surface of Russian main battle tanks could make some sense. Multi-spectral imagine sensors are slowly eliminating this reliance on strictly IR target systems, as these sensors offer greater resistance to IR suppression and masking. When you look at the T-90’s unique mix of capabilities and adherence to a clear and conservative design philosophy, the weapon system really does makes great sense.

For instance, the deletion of a turbine engine lowered the T-90’s cost and complexity, and in doing so it kept its design weight down and thus drastically increasing its range and logistical independence, a key operational factor for Russia, a country with the most land-area in the world.