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05 Jan 17. Land Rover/Pinzgauer PDS Contract expected in March. The UK MoD is expected to place the contract for the Land Rover and Pinzgauer Post Design Services (PDS) contract reported to be worth £12m over 2 years for the Land Rover Wolf, Pinzgauer vehicles and trailers totalling 8000 platforms. Bidders are believed to include BAE Systems, Hobson Industries, Jankel and Ricardo.
05 Jan 17. What does the future hold for tanks? Having been a mainstay of modern militaries for so long, will the tank continue to play a role on tomorrow’s battlefields? And if it does, how will tanks and armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) need to change to meet the challenges of future warfare?
The Battle of the Somme has gone down in history as one of the bloodiest ever fought, with over a million men killed or wounded in the course of the largest action on WW1’s Western Front. Less well known, however, is that the third phase of that 141-day long offensive also marked the battlefield debut of the tank.
Although its direct military impact on 15 September1916 was almost negligible, within a few short years the tank had risen from a ponderous, breakdown-prone novelty to a potent platform that was to dominate battlefields throughout the rest of the 20th Century and beyond. To this day, nothing makes such a bold statement of military might as the sight of massed armour, but the face of war has changed over the past 100 years, and radically so over the last 20. So how are tanks keeping up?
Defence contractors and military research establishments, from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US to Britain’s own Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), are busily working to find the answers.
From the outset, one thing seems very clear; all the experts are sure that tanks will still be around for their bi-centenary in 2116.
“Looking out beyond Challenger 2 all the ‘future’ studies indicate that there will be an enduring need for mobile and survivable fighting vehicles,” says William Suttie from the UK’s Dstl. “Whatever we do, the chances are other nations will continue to field heavy main battle tanks, hence we will continue to need something that can do what current MBTs can do, even if it looks different from current vehicles.”
“Whatever we do, the chances are other nations will continue to field heavy main battle tanks.”
John Puddy, technology lead at BAE Systems Land UK, agrees. It is, he asserts, all about relevancy and that is driven by the complexity of the modern battlespace, and the very broad range of threats today, compared with the more structured battlefields of the two World Wars.
“I definitely see tanks and armoured vehicles having a role for the next 100 years, as important [as], and possibly more important than, they have had in the last 100 years,” Puddy says. “Tanks are like heavy-weight boxers, able to throw big punches, and take big punches in their own right and that’s still going to be relevant, but there is a whole host of other roles for armoured vehicles.”
Defying the armour axiom
The nature of that armour could be very different in future. Modern tanks and AFVs enjoy unprecedented levels of protection, but as armour evolves, so too do armour piercing weapons. Although adding more weight of armour brings incremental improvements, it hampers speed and mobility, as well as driving up both development and deployment costs. As DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technology programme manager Major Christopher Orlowski recently said, it is now about defying “the ‘more armour equals better protection’ axiom that has constrained armoured ground vehicle design for the past 100 years”.
Unsurprisingly, Dstl has plenty of its own ideas about this too. Active protection systems that can destroy or mitigate incoming fire, or nov