Next Generation MBT Discussion and Concepts

Feanor

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Lack of space, lack of power (hybrid drive), lack of cooling capacity and lack of power connection points to external sensors through all that armour.
Sorry, I was unclear. Consider what the Soviets did with Object 187, if you're familiar with it. It was a third-gen MBT that simply combined the best features of all Soviet 3rd gens in one platform with marginal performance improvements. It wasn't a generation ahead but it could integrate the latest tech they had organically instead of having it bolted on. Or consider a T-72B3 vs a T-90M. Much of the same tech, but what a difference in terms of implementation. Yet we don't label the T-90M as a next generation platform. Could something similar be done, where without a revolution in tank guns, armor, or mobility, merely marginal gains, we have a scratch-designed or heavily modified variant of a current generation design (not necessarily an existing current tank, it could be a new vehicle, just not lightyears ahead of what's already out there) but with at least a significant (possible essential) portion of the new capabilities?

I ask this because the key problem the Sovietshad with the 2A83 was the barrel resource (how many shots fired before you have to replace the barrel). While I don't know this (low ammo is cited) I suspect this is part of the same reason Russia abandoned the 2A83 for the Object 148 (cost was likely another factor). Could similar considerations prevent a significant growth in caliber for western tanks? Cost+combat load+barrel resource issues?

On a side note, if you know, what is the current expectation for how many shots a tank barrel should last?

Japan and Korea will be a golden mile behind compared to Israel, Germany and the US. They will get around to it but not now — they don’t have the same threat matrix. The Germans as a major arms exporter is keen to see its tech exported used operationally. US and Israel are at forever war, they try to be prepared.

I cannot imagine Japan deploying its Type 10 for an operational mission — so it will not be upgraded fast. A lot of yen is going into their submarines and the JSDF marine brigade. The South Koreans have more to worry about than upgrading their K2 Black Panther MBTs, with their current geopolitical circumstance, given the joke that is called the North Korean tank brigades. Again I also cannot imagine Korea deploying its K-2s for an operational mission (to support out of area contingencies) — if they are not going to be used in war, there is no rush to upgrade.

Not sure but I know that bits of the tech is being tested for fielding.

When I see bits of tech being tested, that strongly suggests integration into something currently under development, and fairly close to completion, or something already fielded. This is what makes me hesitate.

I don’t like the Carmel’s 2 crew concept. It’s too tiring. Bits of the technology will be used here and there but not in the manner Israeli companies try to present it.
Do you think facial recognition tech will see it's way into this concept, especially with the evolving AI support (not necessarily in terms of actual faces)? I know the Uran-9 tested facial recognition tech to be able to recognize friendlies, including possible application to distinguish between uniforms, civilian clothing and potential hostile indicators without human intervention. I also know the results were unsatisfying, but then again Russia is behind the curve, and this was a couple of years back. Maybe, some way to at least PID friendly uniforms?

What about the US Griffin 2 (MPF program)? Can we expect something there? Or just a normal light-medium tank?
 
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Terran

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MPF is dedicated to the light tank class. This is why one of the two known contenders is the old M8 resurrected.
It’s a 105mm tank gun mated with current fire control. The aim is an air drop tank for airborne.
 

Feanor

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MPF is dedicated to the light tank class. This is why one of the two known contenders is the old M8 resurrected.
It’s a 105mm tank gun mated with current fire control. The aim is an air drop tank for airborne.
Air-droppable or air-transportable? Also, doesn't it feature a modular armor scheme that can cause its weight to fluctuate considerably? Even with the heavier armor packages it still doesn't approach a medium tank?
 

OPSSG

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@Feanor, I don’t know the answer to most of your questions but I think it is safe to say that I do not expect a build contract for a true next generation MBT to be awarded in the next 15 years — the replacement of the Leclerc and Leopard-2 tanks is scheduled in 2035. I also don’t think facial recognition tech is that important to the battle net.

The Leopard 2A4 has been upgraded into various forms — I suspect Singapore is happy with the Leopard 2SGs till around 2035 to 2040 — even if there is another minor upgrade or two to the L2SGs in the 2030s (but they will not be next generation tanks). There is just no space inside (when I climbed into the Leopard 2SG to look). Even the retrofitted APU generates heat and that is not idea for electronics.

KMW’s Leopard 2A7+, with a barrel length of 55 caliber, is also an evolution of this heritage but hardly considered next generation, to me.
 
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Terran

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I stand corrected air deploy not drop but early on they said drop.The original 1980s was supposed to be air drop but never realized that goal.
this slide from 2018 even says drop. 9AD6A4DA-B7E5-4324-B13B-0CD3C100C67D.jpeg
The term light tank is consistent with the program. The M8 has an aluminum hull and is the basis of BAEs
 

Todjaeger

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Having read through the two pages of comments, one of the first thoughts I had was that it seems tanks, or tank generations, have similar issues to discussion of fighter aircraft generations, or more specifically when people write about "6th generation" fighter development. Basically there seems to be a lack of consensus as to what defines a/each tank generation.

This situation is also complicated by the very different approaches to tank design and development between what can (more of less) be described as Western gov'ts vs. Eastern gov'ts. A prime example of that difference would apparently be the designs for the power pack & access between tanks like the Abrams and the T-64/72/80 series tanks. The power pack of an Abrams can be removed and replaced in about 30 minutes IIRC, enabling a tank with a problematic power pack to be able to get it swapped and put back into the fight faster, while the problematic power pack can be worked on independent of the tank. This sort of configuration AFAIK has been in use since the M1 Abrams entered service in 1980. This would in turn mean that if the ability to rapidly change out a tank's power pack was a characteristic of a particular tank "generation" then it applies to many tanks already in service.

Now from a theoretical perspective, I do not think that onboard transport of UAVs or a UAS in the end would be a defining MBT characteristic. My reasoning is that while it will most likely become even more important for an MBT to be able to receive and make effective use of additional data to improve SA in a networked/network-centric battlespace (which IMO would be a defining characteristic) there is not a specific need for an MBT to actually be the carrier vehicle for dismounted sensors.
 

Takao

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There are lots of comments about reducing crew size; but there is a large risk in that. I realise that many nations have adopted a 3-person crew, but most studies I have seen highlight that a 4-person crew is better. When it comes time to do picquets, maintenance on the vehicles, re-arm and refuel, all of the 100's of little jobs that aren't simply fighting and driving the MBT, a 16 person Tp is better over the duration of the campaign. That's not to say that the traditional roles remain extant; there is an autoloader option for the M1 that would enable the loader to become a JTAC, UAV operator, EW tech or basically anything else.

The other thing I would bear in mind is what an MBT is meant to do. It requires the protection, firepower and manouverabilty to apply shock action to a point on the battlefield. If it doesn't do that, it's not a tank. Anything relating to airborne is a pipedream for instance - it lacks the protection to apply shock action. I'm with @Todjaeger - defining armour by generations is slippery. But the underlying point of an MBT is pretty much the same reguardless of nation and era, with differences relating to the tactics, operational environment and supporting arms.
 

kato

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When it comes time to do picquets, maintenance on the vehicles, re-arm and refuel, all of the 100's of little jobs that aren't simply fighting and driving the MBT, a 16 person Tp is better over the duration of the campaign.
You don't have to really have those 16 people (or less, or more) on the tanks themselves. France operates tank platoons with 18 men: 9 on the three Leclercs, 9 following in VBL ready to switch crews to extend mission endurance in the field.
 

Feanor

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You don't have to really have those 16 people (or less, or more) on the tanks themselves. France operates tank platoons with 18 men: 9 on the three Leclercs, 9 following in VBL ready to switch crews to extend mission endurance in the field.
Some Russian tank experts have even suggested that tank crews like fighter jet crews need to separate into flight crew and ground crew for the next generation. They've cited operations in Syria where a given tank might have two combat crews, and separate set of backend personnel that do maintenance for the tank formation as a whole. It seems very similar to what the French are doing.
 

Feanor

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Having read through the two pages of comments, one of the first thoughts I had was that it seems tanks, or tank generations, have similar issues to discussion of fighter aircraft generations, or more specifically when people write about "6th generation" fighter development. Basically there seems to be a lack of consensus as to what defines a/each tank generation.

This situation is also complicated by the very different approaches to tank design and development between what can (more of less) be described as Western gov'ts vs. Eastern gov'ts. A prime example of that difference would apparently be the designs for the power pack & access between tanks like the Abrams and the T-64/72/80 series tanks. The power pack of an Abrams can be removed and replaced in about 30 minutes IIRC, enabling a tank with a problematic power pack to be able to get it swapped and put back into the fight faster, while the problematic power pack can be worked on independent of the tank. This sort of configuration AFAIK has been in use since the M1 Abrams entered service in 1980. This would in turn mean that if the ability to rapidly change out a tank's power pack was a characteristic of a particular tank "generation" then it applies to many tanks already in service.

Now from a theoretical perspective, I do not think that onboard transport of UAVs or a UAS in the end would be a defining MBT characteristic. My reasoning is that while it will most likely become even more important for an MBT to be able to receive and make effective use of additional data to improve SA in a networked/network-centric battlespace (which IMO would be a defining characteristic) there is not a specific need for an MBT to actually be the carrier vehicle for dismounted sensors.
I think the main basis here is that we're dealing with very obvious-looking MBT generations historically that can also easily be distinguished by their gun calibers. USSR/WarPac it was 100mm, 115mm, 125mm (T-44/54/55, T-62, T-64/72/80). For the west it was a little more muddled with the M-48 M-60, and M1 following a similar pattern of 90mm, 105mm, and 120mm. There's even a neat symmetry where early variants of 3rd gens retained the old gun (first T-64s had a 115mm gun, first M1s had a 105mm). But it gets more muddled when you consider that the British Centurions had 105s from the late 1950s. It's still a case of up-gunning an older tank, so it could still fall into generations pretty neatly. There can still be a significant variation within a generation, but the categories still look fairly solid. The gap between a T-72B and an M-60A1 is comparable to the gap between an M1A1 and a T-62, and a T-72B is much closer in terms of overall capabilities and combat effectiveness to an M1A1 then they are to a T-62, despite having a common design philosophy with the latter.

As with fighter jets, things start to look more complicated as the battlefield itself becomes more complex, and as the technology moves on while budgets lag, not allowing for generation replacements every 15-20 years as in the past. At this point 3rd gens have been around in the East since the late 60s early 70s, in the West since late 70s early 80s, with no real replacement in sight in most cases (the only two stabs at a 4th gen both come from Russia but are somewhat questionable). I suspect that had budgets remained high, we would have an easier time distinguishing generations because there would be much less upgrading of older tanks, and much more effort to push out newer models with the latest capabilities built in.
 

Terran

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I don’t think it’s generationally defined by Gun caliber. Well not totally. It depends on whom is doing the defining. Two definitions I have read of are Rolf Hines in 1983’s Kampfpanzer der Die Entwickelungen der Nachkriegszeit. Defined the Three MBT Generations
Generation I were derived from late Second World War tanks. Second generation added NBC protection, Night vision, a stabilized gun with mechanical fire control. Third generation Thermal imaging, Digital fire control, Composite armor.
Vehicles can shift across generations based on outfitting with upgrades.
There is no fixed fourth generation defined as yet. The term is somewhat used by makers as a sales point.
Edit forgot to add the second which is the Canadian, which again starts with Second World War designs then classes most 120mm tanks and breaks the third as digital systems.
 
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kato

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Maybe, some way to at least PID friendly uniforms?
Rheinmetall can sell you a finished solution for that. ZEFF DSID. Laser module interrogating a small device carried on infantry.

Germany funded development between ca 2001 and 2012, but has decided not to procure it on a broadband base so far. Possibly because of certain limitations of the system. Current systems, incl. infantry vehicles, are prepared with interfaces to integrate it though.

The US is currently seeking to develop something similar, with a tender published in April this year.
 
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Feanor

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I don’t think it’s generationally defined by Gun caliber. Well not totally. It depends on whom is doing the defining. Two definitions I have read of are Rolf Hines in 1983’s Kampfpanzer der Die Entwickelungen der Nachkriegszeit. Defined the Three MBT Generations
Generation I were derived from late Second World War tanks. Second generation added NBC protection, Night vision, a stabilized gun with mechanical fire control. Third generation Thermal imaging, Digital fire control, Composite armor.
Vehicles can shift across generations based on outfitting with upgrades.
There is no fixed fourth generation defined as yet. The term is somewhat used by makers as a sales point.
The gun caliber doesn't define the generation but I think it does make the division a very neat one. It more cemented the idea and made it easy to look at them as distinct then actually defined it.

Rheinmetall can sell you a finished solution for that. ZEFF DSID. Laser module interrogating a small device carried on infantry.

Germany funded development between ca 2001 and 2012, but has decided not to procure it on a broadband base so far. Possibly because of certain limitations of the system. Current systems, incl. infantry vehicles, are prepared with interfaces to integrate it though.

The US is currently seeking to develop something similar, with a tender published in April this year.
Rheimetall can't sell me anything because I'm not buying. :) But your point is taken, and I appreciate the information. The issue is that what you suggest requires an active device carried by presumably every infantryman? I was thinking more of actual visual recognition. One that wouldn't require any active elements and therefore not prone to jamming or electronic disruption.
 

Terran

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The gun caliber doesn't define the generation but I think it does make the division a very neat one. It more cemented the idea and made it easy to look at them as distinct then actually defined it.
Of course gun caliber can be changed. Many tanks have changed guns Abrams started out as a 105mm. This might work for delineation of Tanks pre 1980 but post just about everything moved to the two primary calibers 120mm and 125mm then the changes move away from the guns to the other aspects of the tanks. Although there is the 130mm demonstration machine back in the 1990s talk was of the 140mm gun with demonstrators. Even when 105mm vs 100mm was the order of the day fire control systems and sensors were driving factors of live or die.
 

kato

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The issue is that what you suggest requires an active device carried by presumably every infantryman?
Yes, and it's usually suggested that this device being a somewhat blocky, bulky item carried in an exposed position, while not providing 360-degree coverage was - besides the price - the reason why it is about the only part of the IdZ-ES/IdZ-2 project that was not procured with the package.

There are some passive concepts out there, usually designed around IR reflectors.

I was thinking more of actual visual recognition. One that wouldn't require any active elements and therefore not prone to jamming or electronic disruption.
Doing it by facial recognition would be a huge cybersecurity issue though - you'd need a visual recognition database either locally (= at high risk of "tapping") or active communications with a central database host for verification (= interceptable and exposing).

The German military has projects developing AI systems for reliable visual recognition and classification of ground objects, in particular vehicles, under battlefield conditions (cover, camouflage etc) - along with a couple other AI analysis systems that go in the direction of rapidly analysing scenery for changes and anomalies (e.g. a particular ground disturbance where a mine/IED may have been placed) to be carried onboard vehicles and visualize such possible analyzed dangers to drivers and vehicle commanders.

Looking a bit into the future, in theory you could easily extend that AI recognition and analysis to e.g. equipment and uniforms carried by soldiers in general, "classifying" them - and, for hostiles, their danger potential - that way.
 
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