US reveals plans for smaller, faster, lighter tanks

The US has launched a plan to create smaller, faster, more agile military ground vehicles that can autonomously dodge incoming threats.

The US has launched a plan to create smaller, faster, more agile military ground vehicles that can autonomously dodge incoming threats.

The government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants companies and researchers to develop technologies for such vehicles in an attempt to reverse the trend for tanks with ever-increasing amounts of heavy armour.

Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) programme aims to reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 per cent compared to current armoured fighting vehicles reduce the number of on-board crew needed by 50 per cent and increase vehicle speed by 100 per cent.

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‘GXV-T’s goal is not just to improve or replace one particular vehicle – it’s about breaking the “more armour” paradigm and revolutionising protection for all armored fighting vehicles,’ said DARPA programme manager Kevin Massey in a statement.

‘Inspired by how X-plane programs have improved aircraft capabilities over the past 60 years, we plan to pursue groundbreaking fundamental research and development to help make future armoured fighting vehicles significantly more mobile, effective, safe and affordable.’

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The programme describes four key technical areas in which participants could develop technologies: 

  • Radically Enhanced Mobility – Ability to traverse diverse off-road terrain, including slopes and various elevations; advanced suspensions and novel track/wheel configurations; extreme speed; rapid omnidirectional movement changes in three dimensions.
  • Survivability through Agility – Autonomously avoid incoming threats without harming occupants through technologies such as agile motion (dodging) and active repositioning of armour.
  • Crew Augmentation – Improved physical and electronically assisted situational awareness for crew and passengers; semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions similar to capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits.
  • Signature Management – Reduction of detectable signatures, including visible, infrared (IR), acoustic and electromagnetic (EM).
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DARPA is aiming for technologies to be completed two years after the awarding of contracts in April 2015.

Companies wishing to take part in the programme are being invited to register for a “Proposers’ Day” on Friday 5 September 2014 at DARPA’s offices in Arlington, Virginia.