How to Build Next Super Tank (Or Death Trap)

2019/04/1555101834.jpg
Read: 336     13:33     13 April 2019    

by Michael Peck

The Big Three features of any tank are firepower, speed and mobility. But what feature do future tanks need most of all? The same thing that automobile owners want: a vehicle that’s easy to fix instead of being stuck in the shop for repairs.


“Maintenance drives all other components of MBT [main battle tank] lethality because the world’s most deadly broken tank is still just a broken tank,” warns Micah Clark, an Army civil affairs officer and armor platoon leader.


The world’s armies are grappling with how to create new vehicles to replace aging tanks, such as the M-1 and T-72, that were designed during the Cold War. The problem is that the crews—that is, the people who will actually operate these complicated beasts—tend to get little input into the design, according to Clark, in an article for Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

That means vehicles that may be great on paper but are hard to repair in the field. “The maintenance factor is typically either considered a subset of mobility, or ease of maintenance is assumed to be inversely proportionate to vehicle weight,” Clark says. “This way of understanding maintenance design makes logistics calculations much simpler (that is, if the MBT weighs less, [then] it is more rapidly deployable, has a longer range and breaks down less frequently).”


But that’s not how things work in real life. “A routine maintenance issue rarely slows a tank down for more than an hour or two at most if the part is on-hand,” says Clark. He also noted that “as the M1A2 currently operates, however, far too many of its most common problems must be fixed at echelons above crew or company maintenance.”

Common tank ailments include the vehicle’s electrical system, hydraulics and sensors. When they fail, either the crew fights in a sub-optimal tank, or “they are at the mercy of a specialized and highly sought-after maintainer to fix or replace a complex part that must be evacuated to the brigade support area as far as twenty to thirty kilometers [twelve to nineteen miles] behind the forward lines.”


Clark believes the next U.S. main battle tank will only need relatively minor upgrades: better visual sensors, anti-personnel fragmentation rounds for its cannon, and active protection systems to stop anti-tank rockets. “None of these speculative improvements are misguided or excessive, but as they are developed, designers would do well to remember that operators will be the ones fixing these components when they inevitably break,” Clark warns.

It’s not clear what the next generation of U.S. tanks will look like. The Army suggests the M-1 replacement may not even resemble a tank in the conventional sense. The scientists at DARPA are exploring tanks that look more like dune buggies or Mars rovers.

What is clear is that these are not new issues. Historically, Nazi Germany’s fearsome fleet of “big cat” tanks—the Tiger, the Panther—were sophisticated vehicles that possessed superior firepower and protection over their opponents. But they also were expensive, over-engineered designs that suffered from reliability problems. 

A tank that can’t be fixed is just another lemon.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest.

National Interest.



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How to Build Next Super Tank (Or Death Trap)

2019/04/1555101834.jpg
Read: 337     13:33     13 April 2019    

by Michael Peck

The Big Three features of any tank are firepower, speed and mobility. But what feature do future tanks need most of all? The same thing that automobile owners want: a vehicle that’s easy to fix instead of being stuck in the shop for repairs.


“Maintenance drives all other components of MBT [main battle tank] lethality because the world’s most deadly broken tank is still just a broken tank,” warns Micah Clark, an Army civil affairs officer and armor platoon leader.


The world’s armies are grappling with how to create new vehicles to replace aging tanks, such as the M-1 and T-72, that were designed during the Cold War. The problem is that the crews—that is, the people who will actually operate these complicated beasts—tend to get little input into the design, according to Clark, in an article for Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

That means vehicles that may be great on paper but are hard to repair in the field. “The maintenance factor is typically either considered a subset of mobility, or ease of maintenance is assumed to be inversely proportionate to vehicle weight,” Clark says. “This way of understanding maintenance design makes logistics calculations much simpler (that is, if the MBT weighs less, [then] it is more rapidly deployable, has a longer range and breaks down less frequently).”


But that’s not how things work in real life. “A routine maintenance issue rarely slows a tank down for more than an hour or two at most if the part is on-hand,” says Clark. He also noted that “as the M1A2 currently operates, however, far too many of its most common problems must be fixed at echelons above crew or company maintenance.”

Common tank ailments include the vehicle’s electrical system, hydraulics and sensors. When they fail, either the crew fights in a sub-optimal tank, or “they are at the mercy of a specialized and highly sought-after maintainer to fix or replace a complex part that must be evacuated to the brigade support area as far as twenty to thirty kilometers [twelve to nineteen miles] behind the forward lines.”


Clark believes the next U.S. main battle tank will only need relatively minor upgrades: better visual sensors, anti-personnel fragmentation rounds for its cannon, and active protection systems to stop anti-tank rockets. “None of these speculative improvements are misguided or excessive, but as they are developed, designers would do well to remember that operators will be the ones fixing these components when they inevitably break,” Clark warns.

It’s not clear what the next generation of U.S. tanks will look like. The Army suggests the M-1 replacement may not even resemble a tank in the conventional sense. The scientists at DARPA are exploring tanks that look more like dune buggies or Mars rovers.

What is clear is that these are not new issues. Historically, Nazi Germany’s fearsome fleet of “big cat” tanks—the Tiger, the Panther—were sophisticated vehicles that possessed superior firepower and protection over their opponents. But they also were expensive, over-engineered designs that suffered from reliability problems. 

A tank that can’t be fixed is just another lemon.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest.

National Interest.



Tags: