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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.


Source: DARPA

‘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.’


Source: DARPA

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).


Source: DARPA

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. 

Readers' comments (8)

  • Great to see the US military -at last? actually starting to think outside their present box!I am reminded of work in which I participated with a major US contractor in the 80s. The brief was to create a 72 hour protective 'suit' for special forces: with inbuilt ballistic, NBC, load carrying facility (ie structural support webbing incorporated in the base fabric) -communication facilities, in-built with food, water, medical support, and waste removal systems in place.

    I made few friends by pointing out that two armies similarly equipt would simply have to attack each other by calling each other rude names over their radios!

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  • Small, light tanks? I think Vickers went down that road in the 1920's...

    And what about the Scorpion family?

    Pity we can't post images on this thread!


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  • .....agile motion (dodging) and active repositioning of armour.

    I thought that was what combat had always been about....until tanks came along and spoiled the fun.

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  • This is remarkably similar to the UK MoD FPV concept (previously covered by The Engineer) but several years later and presumably several billion dollars more expensive

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  • The vehicle hasn't actually been designed yet - the pictures are just speculative. And no money has been spent yet. DARPA is asking for proposals for new technologies that might contribute to a new ground vehicle design.

  • I remain somewhat speculative of a tank that relies on avoiding engagement as a form of defense. The primary function of a tank is to be able to confront enemy forces head on as well as protect its occupants from unexpected hits.

    Then again the point of the research is to be more revolutionary than evolutionary. In which case it'll be more about making the tanks role in battle obsolete rather than the tank itself.

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  • Surely there is a deeper point here.
    The very essence of military thinking (if there ever has been any?) has surely always been dictated by and based upon increases in size and quantity. If ten of something is good, (dreadnoughts, battleships,) then twelve must be better? If 'they' have 1,000 of something we must have 2,000. If theirs can fire a projectile 5,000 metres, ours must go 10,000, If their tank weights 30 ton, lets make one that weights 50..

    'confront head on and project its occupants...'
    Longer ago than I recall (in fact 1970) I spent 6 weeks in Kursk, USSR. I was an English Engineer, working for a US manufacturer of textile machinery doing technical service in a vast acrylic textile processing mill, at the height of the Cold War! [Draw whatever conclusions you wish about all that I was doing whilst there]
    Kursk was the scene, in 1943, of the largest tank battle ever fought: towards its end, when some tanks had literally run out of ammunition, and/or their guns had fired so much they were distorted, they literally rammed each other. These heroic ? events were/are recorded in a series of memorials around the city and surrounding areas: some of the tanks -from both 'sides' filled with concrete (and according to local urban myths? with the dead crews still inside) remain where they lay: in parks, wooded areas, in one case beside a hospital..(surely the ultimate irony) a potent and timely reminder of the futility of war. What is the point of my comment?
    That it hopefully makes us all think about what we as Engineers (supply this stuff|) do, every day.

    Mike B

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  • HMS Sheffield was designed and built a with an aluminium superstructure and state of the art detection systems. It was light and fast. It didn't need armour. It was destroyed by just one Exocet in the Falklands.

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  • There seem to be many myths about the construction of 'the shiny Shef' as this vessel was known but there seems to be no doubt (in the official mind/report) that whilst the control and guidance systems and the rocket-motor (which unfortunately worked perfectly...) were of French design and construction...the war-head was from a factory located not a million miles from Chester! Guess which part of the missile (fortunately) failed to explode. Unfortunately for the vessel, there was -according to the official report- unused fuel in the rear of the missile which caused the fire that burnt the vessel. Having the fire-suppression systems out of action (one hesitates to ask, why were such not duplicated) by the initial impact...was un-helpful too.
    hey Ho

    Mike B

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