09 June 2013

The Motorpool: THE TANK

Few machines of modern warfare command such awe and fear as the tank on the modern battlefield. From its massive firepower, size, and speed, modern warfare gained a platform to wage combat at a lighting pace, and changed warfare, especially in the deserts. While tanks are believed to be a 20th century invention, the idea of a mobile gun platform originated with da Vinci around 1485 with his turtle-like armored car with cannons at 360 degrees, but reached reality during those hellish years of the First World War when the internal combustion engine became standard technology  leading to a variety of military personnel began theorizing on mobile gun platforms that would combine field artillery and the horse cavalry. While the concept was proven during that hellish war, it took World War II to give the tank its primary purpose, and become a bedrock of modern land warfare. From the 2nd World War onto modern day MBTs, tank develop and design has been a balancing between armor, speed, crew comfort, and firepower. Today, the main battle tank is at a critical point in their relevancy in an era of low-intensity conflicts and urban warfare. What will the future hold for the tank? Will it be among the stars, waging armored battles in the red sands of Mars? Abandoning the tracks for wheels or legs? Or will the tank disappear entirely? Settle in for another massive blogpost (this took a month to write) on the development, technology, future, and science fiction take on the tank. I normally would have included the history of the tank...but, there so much information scattered across nearly a hundred years and different military organizations that I just could not do the topic justice. 

Why is the "Tank" called a "Tank"?
Since World War One, those monstrous armored vehicles have been called "tanks"...but why? Originally, these new armored vehicles were called 'landships' from the H.G. Wells 1904 story, or "land cruisers" or even 'caterpillar machine gun destroyers', but the project was concealed to maintain security prior to their deployment. The story that was sold to the workers on the line in the British factories was that they were constructing mobile water tanks, and the hulls of the landships were labeled "water carriers" and even "little willies". These was shortened, like all things in the military-speak, to "tanks", and the name stuck.While the term "tank" today is more universally adopted for these vehicles, it was not always so. The French, being French, used the term char d'assaut and was shorted to char. The Germans referred to the British war-machines as "tanks", but called their armored vehicles Kampwagen' and later Panzer.  

The Combat Role of the Tank
In modern land warfare, the main battle tank works within the concept of combined arms where the tank is paired with field artillery, CAS, attack helicopters, mechanized infantry to push into enemy territory and crush the opposition (especially on the Division-level of size). Within this concept of modern land warfare, the main battle tank is the spearheading shock-force that has the armor, speed, and firepower to engage and destroy most of the war-machines operating on the battlefield, including the enemy's tanks. Given the psychological effect of a tank like the M1 Abrams, it is possible that mere sight of these armored beasts can cause the enemy to withdraw.
Originally, the tank was envisioned as a "machine gun destroyer", able to protect and counter the great hunger beast of war that seemly to eat men for pleasure. The tank was also useful for dislodge barbed wire that hindered the infantry's movement, allowing the machine gun to do its bloody work. It was also designed to move the war of the trenches forward with progress for ending the war. Than changed when the enemy began fielding their own tanks to counter the new threat...and thus began the tank arms race that continues today. During the Cold War years, the main battle tank was the king of land combat, and military planners on both sides obsessed over each others tanks. All of this theorizing was played out in 1991, when NATO tanks and Warsaw Pact tank squared off in those pool table flat deserts of Iraq and Kuwait. Little did we know that moment was the tanks' shining moment, and now, in the era of the War on Terror, the main battle tank seems a little lost and heading for a major redesign of the comcept.    

Classifications of Tanks

The Main Battle Tank (MBT)
The evolution of the MBT came out of the Cold War arms race between the tanks of the west and east.  MBT had trace its roots to being an outgrowth of the medium tank and a British concept of the "universal tank" that could fulfill any combat role. While light tanks continued to produced, heavier tanks were seen as a liability due to European bridges not being able to support their weight and tank guns could counter armor technology of the 1960's. This caused for the medium and heavy tanks ability and weakness to be culled into the new main battle tank. The classification of the MBT was helped by new more lightweight composite armor in the 1970's, and the need to focus resources on fielding the right kind of tank in the shadow of a large-scale conventional war in Europe. With the range of combat abilities, the MBT became the key tank classification and type produced today. Nations, like the United States, only field MBTs in their armored units.    

The 'Cruiser' Tank
Given their experiences in World War One, the British War Office in the mid-1930's led development of two different types of tanks. One of these was the Cruiser tank also known as the Cavalry Tank, and was based on the concept of the naval cruiser. Mobility and speed were the two prime considerations regarding the Cruiser tanks, and armor and armament were sacrificed. The idea was to use the speed of the Cruiser tank with infantry and the heavier 'infantry tank' to utilize holes in the enemies lines. When devoid of the large army elements, the Cruiser tank was might to hit the enemies supply lines and flanks. This is how the Cruiser tanks of the British Army were used during the World War II desert campaigns. While this sounds good, the Cruiser tank was badly armed with a weaker 40mm cannon that could not punch through German tanks, and the armor could not protect from even a single enemy tank round. By the end of the war, the poor record of the British Crusader Cruiser tank, both in combat record and reliability caused this to be the end of the road for this tank class. 

The Light Tank 
Being less armored, armed, but yet more mobile and offer the first armored vehicle for expeditionary or airborne forces defines the light tank that today are nearly an extinct breed. During the First World War, the revolutionary French Renault FT-17 was a light tank that paved the way for modern tank design, and also gave the light tank its hallmarks. During World War II, light tanks, like the US Army M3 Stuart and the Soviet BT tanks often were on the ground with infantry units like the airborne where their speed and maneuverability allowed them to backup these foot units, but where simply outclassed by the majority of Axis armor, and could be taken down by infantry anti-tank weapons. This is the major weakness of the light tank class that helped end its production by the end of the Cold War...lack of tactical flexibility. Consider this, a light tank is just that, a lightly armed and armored tank that is developed for mobile fire support, but it cannot engage the common MBTs and win and it cannot transport soldiers, like the APC/IFV. Military planners thought the same and the light tank was replaced in modern land combat with vehicles like the M2 Bradley and Russian BTR-90 that could transport soldiers, and engage MBTs with their TOW missiles.

The Medium Tank
While World War One was the birth and early childhood of the tank, World War Two shaped the tank towards adulthood. This pathway to adulthood was paved with blood and burned steels with the epic tank battles of World War Two where painfully lessons were learned. One of these battles, came the medium tank, and the future main battle tanks of today. Medium tanks were the M4 Sherman, the legendary Soviet T-34, and Nazi Panzer IV that were mostly the workhorses of their armored corps. Given the even abilities of the medium tank, during the post-war era, the medium tank was looked by military planners to be the basis for the next-generation of tanks, and soon, the heavy and light tanks were phased out.  

The Heavy Tank
Originally, the heavy tank was to be a stormtrooper, crashing through enemy lines, while pounding with a heavier gun, and being able to take damage via its heavier armor. However, that didn't work, mostly due to the slower speeds that all of the heaviness caused on the tank. While these tanks were excellent tank killers, their expense and decreased reliability saw them constructed in fewer numbers than medium tanks of World War II. These classification of tank did survive in the post-war era, but only a few were constructed by a few nations. By the late 1970's, most armies had abandoned the concept in favor of the MBT. Some of the heavy tank DNA lives on in self-propelled artillery.

The Super Heavy Tank
When the idea of tanks originated, it was believed that bigger was better in a combat sense and tanks above 75 tons would be the (I'm the)juggernaut(bitch!) of future tank combat. That plan was more or less completely wrong due to the development of close air power and infantry portable anti-tank weapons.  These super-heavy tanks were in keeping with the concept of the naval battleships on land, especially the insane 3rd Reich Landkreuzer p. 1000 Ratte and Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster mobile artillery were at the apex of this thinking. The Ratte was to mount twin 280mm naval artillery cannons and weight in at 1,000 tons. This land-based Deathstar would have scouting motorcycles, room for infantry and even a small medical bay. Some believe that the Ratte was developed for a future invasion of America or even a siege on Moscow. The insane project was cancelled in 1943. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet messed around with tanks above 75 tons, like Soviet Object 279 and the American T28, but nothing really came of them because of the tactical impracticality, and they would collapse any bridge that they tried to cross...kind of a downer for the invasion plans.

The Infantry Tank
The British and the French both had interesting ideas of tank designs in the in-between war years that did not last beyond World War II. One being the Cruiser tank and the other was the more heavily armed and armored infantry tank. This type of tank was a direct outgrowth of combat in World War One, where heavily armored and armed tanks assisted infantry in their assault cross no-man's land. In order to withstand the onslaught of incoming fire, the infantry tank class was more armored, but it came at the price of speed. As it turned out, the 2nd World War was completely different kind of conflict from the 1st World War, and the preconceptions about the relationship between infantry, armored units, and modern war failed to materialize, and this type of tank was simply outclassed during engagements with Axis armored units. The British and the French replaced these tanks with medium tanks during the war.  

The Tankette
How would you like a tank that is about the size of a Mazda Miata? Yep...didn't think so, but during the inter-war years, it was a valid concept that made it to World War II battlefields...and ended there. These one-to-two man micro-tanks were designed for scouting, light infantry support (mobile gun platform), and laughter. During World War One, tanks assisted the infantry across the hellish plains, and but once the infantry reached their objective, and tanks could not follow, the infantry advance could be halted by heavier enemy fire than these foot soldiers were carrying, and it was believed that a vehicle that could ride along shoulder-to-shoulder with the soldiers could be the answer. Tankettes were developed and fielded during the war, however, so were anti-tank infantry portable weapons, that easily dealt with these war machines. Despite their failure in WWII, the concept of the micro-tank has not died. The American Vietnam-era Ontos tank is similar, the currently serving German Wiesel Armored Weapons Carrier vehicle, and some concepts of UGVs.

The Tank Destroyer
Tank destroyers are an interesting classification, some of the World War II tank destroyers were specifically geared to knock out the superior 3rd Reich tanks that outclassed Allied armor. During that war, the tank destroyers were little more than a mobile gun platform without a rotating turret that were hastily created as a stop-gap measure with larger guns that the normal WWII medium tank. During the Cold War, the term tank destroyer would alter into armored vehicles with specially developed anti-tank weaponry, like an M113 APC with TOW missile launchers, or the USMC M50 Ontos of the Vietnam War, or IFVs armed with TOW launchers. There even some that apply the term tank destroyer to helicopter gunships like the AH-64 Apache. Today, armored wheeled vehicle like the Italian Army B1 Centauro and US Army M1128 MGS mounted 105mm gun capable of knocking out a MBT while being lighter, cheaper, and more mobile than the big tank.     

The Urban Combat Tank
It is always nice to have heavy firepower backing you up, especially in the dangerous uncertain terrain of urban battlefields, and a variety of tanks have been forced into urban combat with varying degrees of success. This has led to a few tanks being geared for the rigors of urban warfare. One of my favorite tanks was the US Marine Corps M50 Ontos ("Thing" in Greek) that mounted six 106mm recoilless rifles with a .50 caliber aiming system, onto a light tank chassis with an anti-infantry .30 caliber machine gun.The role of the Ontos, when original developed in the 1950's, was to be a light tank destroyer that was airlift/drop-capable that could go with rapid response forces. In reality, the Ontos served as an urban combat tank that backed up the Marines during the Battle for Hue in 1968 and the 1965 US occupation of Dominican Republic.

The Flamethrower Tanks
There is just something scare-the-shit-down-your-leg about a tank spewing flame, but at the same time, it just seems to go together like peanut butter and jelly. While discontinued after the Vietnam War, flame tanks were heavily used in the jungle warfare zones of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. These jets of flame proved effective when dislodging infantry in pillbox, and fortified position, but unlike the individual infantry flamethrower, the tank's armor prevented accidental explosions for hostile gunfire. Most flame tanks were medium tanks retrofitted with flamethrowers, like the Vietnam-era American M67 Zippo tank based in the M48 Patton medium tank.
So, if flame weapons are good for psychological terror, rooting out dug-in infantry, and killing xenomorphs, why are flame tanks not longer in service? The American military stopped using flamethrowers in 1978 for military and humanitarian reasons.The fact is that killing and being killed by a flamethrower is a bad way to go, and they are a public relations nightmare, along with inducing greater PTSD for soldiers that used them. Flame tanks stopped being fielded due to this ban, and that their time of being effective had past. Thermobaric (fuel-air) explosions and white phosphorus have replaced some of the roles associated with flamethrowers. In addition, flamethrowers are limited range, and this short range places the flame tank in greater danger within an era of portable, effective anti-tank weaponry.

The Male and Female Tanks? WTF?
During World War One, the British 'Mark' series of original military tank were classified in two different models: the Male and the Female. The Male variant was fitted with two side-mounted 6 lbs (57mm) guns and three .303 (7.7mm Hotchkiss machine guns and weight in at 28 tons. The Female was armed with a machine guns only, normally six .303 machine guns and weighted in at 27 tons. The British Army officer and writer, Ernest Dunlop Swinton originated these terms and only were used for this era of tanks.

Examples of Modern Main Battle Tanks

The Israeli IDF Merkava
71 tons, 120mm main gun, 40mphs, 100% Israeli tank know-how, and my favorite main battle tank in the world, equals the Merkava (Chariot in Hebrew). The Merkava could be one of the most unique MBTs in the world, from design, conception, and deployment. The IDF armored corps is one of the most experienced modern armies with use of tanks in the latter 20th century, leading that experience to filter down into tank design. Also, the team designing the MBT consulted tank crew veterans for their firsthand combat input on how to design the tank.
This hard-won battlefield information caused the Merkava to mount the 1500bhp diesel engine forward for crew comfort and survivability.
This allows for small doors to mounted to the rear of the MBT that allow for escape of the crew, taking on of supplies, rescuing a downed tank crew, or giving a lift to some infantry (no tank in the world has this). Unlike other tanks, the IDF believed that function of a tank is delivery rounds to the enemy and allow the crew to survive, because experienced tank crews are harder to replace than the hardware. Armor protection comes at cost, the Merkava is slower than other current MBTs, but does mount an impressive next-gen Trophy defensive system. Given its unique profile and semi-futuristic looks, the Merkava has been a favorite of sci-fi artists who fuse hallmarks of the design into their own far-future MBTs, or even mecha.  

The Swedish Stridsvagn 103 'S'

During the First World War, there were some wacky tank designs. Most were born from the simple lack of experience, and that ended during the Cold War years...however, there was wacky/unique/cool/badass design that roamed the dark woods of Sweden during the Cold War: the Stridsvagn 103 (STRV 103), better known as the S tank. The most unique feature was instead of turret, the STRV 103 mounts its 105mm gun at the forward section of the tank, lower the tank's profile, but the gun cannot be turned or altered in position. However, the S tank does possess a unique suspension system that allows for increased frontal elevation,and alters the gun's firing arch. The S tank's tactics from typical MBTs.
The gun also extends into the rear of the chassis, and is fed via an automatic loader (rare in non-Warsaw Pact tanks) with a crew of three in center of the tank. This brings up another oddity of the S tank, the drive is the gunner and the commander also has gunnery controls! This could allow the S tank to be operated with as little as two: driver/gunner and commander/gunner. What does the third tanker do? He is the radio operator (since the Strv 103 hunts in packs), and is the lookout for threats at the rear and sides. When the tank was developed in the 1960's, it was the first MBT with a turbine engine and still cannot fire on the move making it more defensive than offensive, but every STRV 103 has the ability to inflate curtains from the sides that allow to transverse water obstructions.
What spurred the design of the STRV 103 tank was the terrain of Sweden, and where the Soviets were likely to invade. In those dark forest of Sweden is where the army hoped to stop a Red Soviet advance if World War III was to occur, and the S tank would have been the mainline of defense on the ground. These unique tanks would wait in the wood, in prepared dug-in tank potions, with the barrel just above the trench and long profile. This gives the STRV 103 more of an 'camper' or 'snake in the grass' role, waiting for the enemy, then striking. One element that helped the Swedish Army develop the S tank with its original design, is that Sweden was not a member of NATO. Alas, the STRV 103 served for thirty years without a single combat mission, and has since been replaced with the more conventional Stridsvagn 122 tank in the mid-1990's. Pity.

The French AMX-56 Leclerc
The French, despite what most some people think, have been pioneers of tank design, especially with the Renault FT17 tank of WWI. In 1993, the French Army replaced the old AMX-30 MBT with the new and modern AMX-56 MBT. It was so-named Leclerc after the World War II French tank general Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque of the Free French 2nd Armor Division. While it looks similar to the German Leopard tank, the Leclerc was designed around its auto-loader system, allowing it to be fully transversable, unlike other auto-loading tanks. Another additional feature of the main gun of the Leclerc is that caliber of the cannon, or the internal dimension of the barrel, is 52 calibers instead of the standard 44 caliber, and does give the 120mm projectile more muzzle velocity than the normal 120mm and range.
Given that the Leclerc was developed in the 1990's, it was able to incorporate informational network ability allows Leclercs to share real-time battlefield information among its metal battle brothers. Development in the 1990's also meant that the engineers were aware of the arms race between tank armor and anti-tank infantry weaponry, and the Leclerc was fitted with 'modular armor packets' that allow for easy upgrade when new anti-tank weaponry is developed, thus, extending the lifespan of the tank, and increasing export sales. Lastly, the Leclerc is the lightest MBT in service today, coming in at 56 tons...prefect for trips to the south of France.  

The German Leopard II
The original Leopard was field in 1965, the first MBT of the West Germany army, and was a revolutionary tank in its time and one of the most produced among the NATO members. In the 1970's, the West Germany army began a new Leopard MBT fit for the apex of the Cold War standoff in Germany with greater turret protection for top-down anti-tank missiles, and a 120mm smoothbore gun, and was born out of a stillborn West Germany/USA joint tank project. Since first being fielded in 1979, the Leopard II has been upgraded several times, changing its look and upgrading its abilities, fueling variants. Its time in combat was via exported models to the Canadian Army in Afghanistan.
One variant that was under R&D, but cancelled for lack of need was a 140mm gun that the rumored next step in tank cannons. Several of the more recent variants allowing for increased export sales and tactically flexibility in a changing world for the MBT. The Leopard II PSO or Peace Support Operations variant is geared to urban warfare and the Leopard 2A7+ is geared for low-intensity conflicts (like Afghanistan).

The American M1 Abrams
One of the most experience and battlefield tested of the modern main battle tanks is the M1 Abrams, and is a long way from old M4 Sherman tanks of WWII. Back when the Abrams was under R&D in the 1970's, the threat of a numerical superior Warsaw Pact loomed over NATO and West Germany, along with new portable anti-tank weaponry. In addition, computer technology, material science had advanced considerable since the days of the M60 Patton, allowing for the development of a new type of MBT, that could fire on the move at over 40mph, protect against against incoming enemy tank fire, and fight at night. While the M1 Abrams was a star in the 1980's while on the line in West Germany, it was untested in combat. However, that changed in 1990, when Saddam Hussein decided to be a dick, and invade Kuwait, causing the squaring off between Hussein's legions of older T-55s, T-69s, and brand new T-72s against the untested Abrams in the wide open deserts.The results were stunning and even surprised the crews of the Abrams themselves, that the tank took direct hits from the modern T-72 Soviet MBTs and kept in the battle. Couple this with the accuracy of the gun, and tank-vs-tank engages were lopsided affairs.
With the speed, training, protection, and lethality, the Abrams proved to be worth the investment of time and billions of dollars. At the end of the air/ground war, the Iraqi losses 1,685 tanks were destroyed, with only 21 Abrams were taken out of combat operations. Despite, its fearsome combat record against other tanks, the greatest weakness of the M1 Abrams is the 1500hp gasoline turbine engine is thirsty, causing for extended logistical support, which was seen in the Gulf War and the War in Iraq. This could be the last great MBT ever field by the US Army.

The Russian T-90
In the 1980's, those of us that followed the tank arm race between NATO and the Warsaw Pact (including me), the Russian T-72, the T-80 were always pitted against the Abrams. Today, the new Russian tank is a 3rd generation moderization of the old T-72 platform for the 21st century, and this T-90 MBT has found a home in the export market (mostly to India). In terms of firepower, the T-90 mounts a 125mm smoothbore gun, a host ofc 12.7mm machine guns, and some interesting defensive armaments. On the turret of the T-90 are pair of 'red-eyes' that make up the 'Shtora-1' electro-optical jamming system, which are becoming popular on current MBTs. Unlike most of the newer crop of MBTs, the T-90 saw action in Chechen and in the shameful Russian 2008 invasion of Georgia.

The British Challenger II
From 1982 to the present, the MBT of the British Army is the Challenger II, and it has been both wars in Iraq, and not a single one was lost in the Second Gulf War, despite one of these British beast was hit 14 fucking times by anti-tank infantry weaponry! There are less than 400 in service, and this is a heavy tank and slower than the M1 Abrams. There are some that regard that the Challenger II has the best MBT in the world today.

The Relationship Between Tanks and the Infantry
A mutually beneficial relationship exists between the tank and infantry, because of the threats to each one on the modern battlefield. One of the greatest threats to the modern MBT is not another enemy tank, but the anti-armor weaponry wielded by infantry that can hid from the armored group's lack of 360 degree visual and sensor support. To solve this issue, within the armored combat team, APCs/IFVs transport a small number of mechanized infantry that assist the tanks, because their crews are not going to dismount and attack hostile infantry
The tanks protect the more lightly armored APCs/IFVs, for hostile armored vehicles and prove heavy gun support. This relationship only increases in importance during urban combat situations. During the 2006 Lebanon/Israel War, 15 tanks and other armored vehicles had their crew members killed via anti-tank weaponry, stressing the need for infantry to accompany the vehicles to take out threats like these prior to the loss of the tank and/or their crew.This is especially true when tanks operate in urban situations, when the infantry clears the streets for the incoming armor. The tanks, in this case, provide heavy fire support when the enemy engages with machine guns and/or sniper fire. However, any member of a mechanized infantry unit knows to watch for the tank...being run over by your own tank is not ideal for your military career.

Tanks vs. Tanks Combat
The first engagement between tanks  occurred on April 24, 1918, three British Mark IV ( two females and one male) were support infantry during the second battle of Villers-Bretonneux in North France, when three rare German A7V tanks were spotted on the battlefield. The Germans had field fourteen of the twenty A7V tanks to the battle, and a pack of three came across the Mark IVs. They crawled towards one another in the mist of the open ground at only a few miles-per-hour. The A7Vs had a small cannon, but only one of the British Mark IVs had a main gun, the male, armed with a six pounder side cannon. Once in machine gun range, they raked each other with  fire, and forced the two female tanks to pull back with they were hit with armor-piercing round.
 The British male advanced while the A7V was occupied with the females. Cannon fire was exchanged between one advancing A7V and the male Mark IV. One has to remember that these tanks lacked suspension of any kind, bobbing around the gunners, and creating inaccurate fire. However, the Mark IV finally starting to range the German tank, and scored several hits with its six-pounder side cannon, killing five of their 18 crew members. The German crew abandoned their tank, while the other two A7Vs withdrew, and thus ending the global's first tank dual.
A great deal has changed since those days in tank-on-tank engagements. Today's MBTs use all manner of intelligence sources to locate their targets, computerized data management systems to identify the hostile tank, and gunnery computer with range-finding laser to confirm the target, then all manner of nasty high velocity shells to end the target...all while on the move at 40 miles-per-hour. Given this new ability of the MBT, combat is quick and brutal, with tanks being destroyed upon the shot, while others are able to absorb several impacts. This has been a constant in tank combat, technology determining the victory. During Desert Storm, the superior M1 Abrams was able to dispatch old Soviet T-54s, T-62s, and T-72s within one direct hit, while the Abrams took several hits and kept in the fight. This is also a factor of modern tank warfare, having an assassin's mentality.
When the tanks are more or less equal, the tank that finds, identifies, and fires first and accurately, is normal the victor, and the other is a smoking ruin of twisted metal. Another factor of modern tank-vs-tank warfare is training of the tank crew. Given the complex nature of the MBT, all members of the tank must work together in order to survive. If a tank crew is disorganized, than they are dead in a combat situation, not matter if their tank is superior. When it comes to modern tank combat tactics, the MBTs normal roll in formations of their own kind, one provides support, while one moves up, much like infantry. During direct assault, tanks move in a line, so that each can engage their targets without risk of friendly fire. This tactic works best in conditions like what was seen in the Gulf War and the War in Iraq...nice open desert.

Tanks in Urban Combat
From the streets of Hue, to Baghdad, to the West Bank, tanks have been sucked into military operations in urban territory (MOUT) with varying degrees of success since World War II. Modern main battle tanks are massive creatures that require space to operate, and in their natural hunting grounds, they are the king of the hill...but that is not so in the concrete jungle. Tanks can be led into traps by blocking off or destroying certain streets, especially of the crew doesn't know the city, and spells death if they are unable to turn around. Tanks crews, at times, were emboldened by their layers of steel, and lack of MOUT training, plowed into urban war-zones without any artillery or infantry, causing devastating results. During the 1980's, the prospect of armored combat in built-up urban areas of West Germany loomed as the Cold War continued onward. In order for that possible invasion of Warsaw Pact armor to be resisted, the Army had to engage in MOUT training on a wide scale. The Israeli Defense Force was forced into a similar situation during the Palestine Intifada. It would seem that the massive firepower of the tank's main gun would be like Mjolnir in urban conditions, but there are risks to engaging in street fighting with an 120mm cannon. There has to be good communication with the infantry units to prevent the tank gunnery from engaging friendlies, and to engage the correct target. The intelligence has to be solid to prevent a 120mm projectile from wiping out a hiding family that would be counter to a mission of winning the hearts & minds. Then there is some lethality issue with engage targets in closer quarters with weaponry that has been designed to take out targets at long range.
To answer some of these issues, the US Army developed several shells for tanks in MOUT conditions: the M908 anti-building shell, and the M1028 anti-infantry shotgun canister. Due to issues with losses of heavy armor in the dense streets of Iraq and tank crews having to fend off attackers until help arrives, the US Army developed the Tank Urban Survival Kit. This incorporates an remotely operated M240 7.62mm machine gun, thermal sight equipment, increased armor to sensitive areas (the rear quarter), armored shielding for the turret-mounted machine guns, and increased communication gear with supporting infantry units. Another element added is adding more M4 carbines and ammunition for the crew than just the one M16 normally carried and their M9 pistols.

The Tank Crew
Tanks are a complex, expensive, and fearsome machine that requires a harmony among its flesh & blood operators in order to be the terror that it is in modern land combat. Most MBTs are crewed by four, some with three, and rarely two (the Swedish S tank). These small teams must work together in a very confined space (like a prison cell) that requires a closed circuit communication due to extreme noise...even when not in combat. The life of a tank crew member is hard, more physical than one would think, being that you ride into battle, instead of walk. When you read official Army documents on the operation of tanks, you get the picture of hours of maintenance (one hour of maintenance per 8 hours of operation), hard labor when a new tread is required or the tank gets stuck, cramped, loud conditions, years of training, and complete reliance one another for survival. In combat, death could come suddenly...and not well. No doubt, tankers are brave men in metal monsters. 

The Commander
The job of a tank commander is to watch, worry, plan, delegate, and wait. He watches for the enemy tanks, worries about the next miles ahead, if their could be enemy armor waiting, can their intelligence be depended on, and if they have enough food, water, ammo, and fuel to make to the object? He plans the course using land navigation, the briefing for his superiors, maps, and the powerful mobile computers, plans for combat using tactics. He must delegate three other soldiers' jobs in the tank, and outside of the tank. When combat comes, he must identify the target, confirm the target, select the round type, order engagement of these target, and wait for success...or failure. His job holds the fate of the tank and her operators in his decisions.

At the fingertips of the gunnery is an awesome weapon: 120mm rounds of various types and capabilities, and if he gets it right, the round sails true, the target is destroyed and the tank is safe. If he fucks up, the hostile tank is missed, and mere seconds separate failure and death, or he misidentifies the target, kills a friendly armored vehicle and lives with that forever. The Gunnery is a hunter, searches for hostile targets among all manner of terrain, in all manner of conditions. When the target is selected, the Gunner must listen to his Commander on round selection, and target information, he must consult and understand information coming from the gunnery computer to ensure a 'one-hit-kill.' The gunner is both the Guardian Angel and Grim Reaper of the tank crew.

According to the official US Army manual, the Loader's role in the M1 Abrams is to stow, and care for the ammunition, loads the main gun, and the tank's various machine guns. Also,the Loader preforms radio checks, pulls rear security for the blind spot of the tank, and assists the rest of the tank crew as needed. Another role that I've read that the Loader has in the tank crew is maintenance of the small arms of the tank. These used to include M9 9mm pistols for each member, some old WWII-era M3 Grease Gun submachine guns, and one M16 assault rifle. This changes during the War in the Iraq, the US began issuing more M4 carbines along with pistols. Added to these duties, the Loader is in-charge of the radio equipment.
Loading the main gun of the tank is a hard job, bar none. Lifting those 120mm round into the breach was compared to swinging a sledgehammer for hours on end by a veteran tank crew-member. Given the various types of rounds available to the modern MBT, the loader must be 100% accurate in selecting and loading the request round by the commander and/or gunner. It is also a dangerous job, the loader is inmate proximity to hundreds of pounds of gunpowder and explosives, and if those safety fire-doors fail, the loader could be the first killed or injured. The very mechanism of the cannon is dangerous to the loader's hands and fingers if he late in removing his hand. This tanker vet talked of his hands taking a toll in broken bones, peeling skin, and scars with stories. In some ways, the Loader is the beginning and the end of tank operations.  

One of the great advantages of being the Driver of the MBT, is they have the most comfortable seat in the entire armored vehicle! The angle that Driver lays in is similar to dentist's chair, and he must look through three block-like windows when the vehicle is buttoned up. According to a PA in my hospital that was in M1 Abrams tank crew in Desert Storm, he said the only block window that works is the center, the side views are obsured by the tank's fenders. He also told me of the headache driving an Abrams at night, you basically drive via a night vision parascope In some situations, the driver can open the porthole access point, and drive al fresco style. Given the tank's dimensions and abilities, a Driver most know his surrounds, depend on his commander's orders, and understand the fine art of off-roading. Another duty of the driver is to be in-house mechanic for the vehicle

To Auto-Load or Not to Auto-Load...That is the Question
Since World War II, there has been an attempt to develop an automatic loading system for the tank's main gun. This system would allow the gunnery to load the shell of their choosing with a few buttons and eliminate one member of the tank crew, increasing shells-per-minute, dropping it from four to three. That sounds great, until you deal with the reality. By installing an auto-loader, you up the complexity, the weight, cost, and maintenance. While you less one less member of the tank crew, that is one less set of eyes and hands in case of an issue, there is less space for the crew, and ammunition, and the shell type cannot be changed when loaded. Failure of the loading system in combat is a certain death sentence, or loading the wrong ammunition. Failure in combat is what exact happened to some T-72s in combat. Another risks associated with auto-loader is injury to the crew if they get near the machinery while in operation. Most of the Soviet tanks are auto-loaders, and used outdated and poorly designed technology, and most NATO members rejected the technology...until the current French MBT, the AMX-56 Leclerc and the American M1128 Mobile Gun System.  

The Big Guns: The Tank Cannon

The main cannon of any tank is the focus of attention for the entire vehicle, and gives it the offensive punch to be the king of the battlefield that it is.When the tank first came onto the battlefields of WWI, they were armed with various smaller caliber cannons, like the 57mm and 37mm and litters of machine guns of the day for anti-material and anti-infantry work. The progress of armored vehicles allowed to mount proper mobile cannons that ranged from the Sherman 75mm, to the Russian T-34 76mm, all the way to the big boy, the fear German 88mm cannon that shattered Allied tanks.
Most of these tank guns were modified artillery cannons, and not completely designed for the rigors of tank warfare, nor  Today, 105mm, 120mm, and 125mm shells are common calibers that fire all manner of specifically tailored shells for certain threats. For example, the 'sabot' round is an kinetic energy penetrator that sheds it's shell casing, and reveals a fin-stabilized arrow-shaped round that uses high velocity to smash through tank armor. This is the primary tank killing round used in modern armored warfare. There is the high explosive anti-tank round (HEAT) that uses a shaped charge of cooper that is heated to extreme temperture by the charge, and the jet of molten cooper shots into the armor at 25 times the speed of sound, to bore through armor. This extreme thermal temperature metals the armor, and showers the interior of the enemy tank with hot metal shrapnel. This is used for lightly skinned vehicles, but was used against some Iraqi old Soviet tanks, and the results were horrific. For anti-infantry (and anti-zombie), urban warfare needs, the M1 Abrams has the M1028  120mm tank anti-infantry canister shell that works like a massive shotgun shell. Packed inside the 120mm shell is an estimated 1150 10mm tungsten balls that spray out after ejection from the muzzle and fuck up shit on an industrial level.
There is much to consider with the main gun of the MBT that just lethality. the barrel must be able to withstand the stress of repeated fires in intense tank battles, along with the tank's frame itself. When new tank's are designed, consideration of the titanic force that the tank's main gun has on the tank itself, and its mobility. When you increase the size of the projectile, you increase the systems   that support and control the gun. That includes the engine, and the added weight places demands on the engine's output and consumption. In the late 1980's, most MBTs upgraded from the 105mm to 120mm, and later the Russians continued the game with an 125mm. Naturally, the game should have continued, and some governments, including the Germans, began R&D on 140mm main guns. By the 1990's, the Wall fell, the USSR and the Warsaw Pact changed their relationship status, and the threat of Red Soviet storming armor was gone, and so was the 140mm main gun. That is another element of the main gun...role and threat. What the gun will be fired at determines the type of shell and size, and at times, what threat is looming on the horizon.

The Little Guns: Machine Guns
While a modern main battle tank is an impressive slight, especially on the open desert battlefield with a armored vehicle the M1 Abrams that can accurately fire their 120mm gun at over 40mph. However, the tank is a large piece of metal without the benefit of 360 degree sensors, and a tank is the biggest target and threat on the battlefield, so, everything tries to take a crack at it...and it doesn't take too many viewings of Saving Private Ryan to understand the weakness of a single alone tank without any support. This is the primary reason that since the beginning of the tank, machine guns have been standard armament for fire suppression and anti-infantry operations.
This is the same in modern MBTs, with the addition of heavy MGs for defense against helicopters. On the turret hatch-ports of the tank, there are normally two machine guns. One 12.7mm for AAA and anti-infantry operations, along with a smaller general-purpose machine gun, like the 7.62mm. Fitted next to the tank's main gun is the coaxial mounted general-purpose machine gun, allowing the gunner to engage targets.

Missile Systems
Portable anti-tank missiles have long been the enemy of the MBTs. But, what about using missile systems on a tank to attack another tank? Modern APCs and IFVs make use of TOW missiles with great effect, mostly because their lighter main guns cannot take down a MBT solo, but a direct hit by a TOW missile allows for an M2 Bradly to deal with a T-72. At present, no MBT carries an mounted missile system, however, there were several tanks with mounted missile systems. The American M551 Sheridan light tank, the West German Jaguar 2, a variant of the T-55 and French AMX-13 all experimented with missiles as more of the main armament than the gun. The best case of a tank using a missile system as the main offensive armament was the M551 Sheridan light tank.
When the tank was developed in the 1960's, the Sheridan was envisioned as a light portable tank that could be air-dropped into crisis point with rapid response military units, like the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. Given that paratroopers would be on the ground prior to the big army response, these lightly-armed troopers could be routed by an enemy using armored vehicles. To solve this issue, the M551 Sheridan was developed, along with a 152mm gun that could fire caseless rounds, and a tube-launched guided anti-tank missile called the MGM-51 'Shillelagh'. However, there were a number of issues with the advanced MGM-51 system, and later development of the TOW missile ended the Shillelagh. It is possible, with the movement towards light MBTs, that anti-tank missile systems could be used.

Given the platform that modern tanks offer with their engines and power generation, it seems a nature fit for a powerful laser DEW system to be mounted to a tank hull. This idea was not lost on the Soviets, who attempted to field two different types of laser tanks during the closing years of the Cold War. The 1K17 'Szhatie' was a prototype self-propelled 'soft-kill' e-warfare tank. Szhatie was developed to disrupt the enemy's optical-electronic via focusing light through 30kgs of artificial rubies. Only two prototypes were constructed before the project was scrapped in the early 1990's.
The technical issues faced by this oddball Soviet metal creation was a lack of threat after the end of the Cold War, and that the power generation was low resulting in low laser output, and lack of money. Some sites have claimed that the banks of laser emitters were not used for e-warfare, but for hard-kill anti-tank work. It is claimed that the Szhatie could destroy one MBT prior to a recharge and that is the real reason it was cancelled. Another application of this Soviet-era laser technology was an anti-aircraft armored vehicles based on the ZSU-23, called the 'Sangvin'. There is little information on this laser DEW AAA armored vehicle, but it is likely that it suffered the same issues as the Szhatie...long recharge times, low power-output, and lack of need in a era of hard economic times. There is a possibility of armored vehicles being a basis for future deployment of military laser DEW systems. Using laser beams to knock out tanks could be very difficult. Thick armor and the mobility of a tank could give a military laser emitter troubles with dwelling time and lethality. Once again, this laser weapon would have to be an improvement over the conventional weaponry...and so far, that has not happened...yet.

Railguns or Gauss Cannons?
Could the use of powerful magnetic fields replace the use of chemical propellant in future tanks? We know that the technology is  US Navy is going to deploy Railguns to their warships by 2020 or 2025, and give their destruction capability, could this be the future of the tank main gun? This idea has been around awhile, back when I was kid in the mid-1980's, there was talk of some of the SDI technology being spun off to more Earth-side applications. One of those options explored was the use of an portable Railgun mounted to the M1 Abrams or some nextgen MBT (like the Crysis M5A2 Atlas MBT). The tank is a natural fit for the  application of magnetically propelled projectiles, and the technology is proven, but there issues preventing these rolling magnetic death machines.
We have to remember that chemical-propelled kinetic energy projectiles require no electric to operate, and thus, place less of a toll on the power generation systems of the MBT and the fuel tank. If the main gun of the MBT was replaced with a coil-cannon, than it is likely that the power plant would be increased to generate the juice required for the EM fields, but this increases the thirst of that power plant. From my research, coilguns would be a better fit for the tank, shorter barrel, not having to change out the rails, no plasma (if the railgun uses it), less risk of melting, and the ability for more rapid fire.
Also, railguns fire a kinetic projectile, that used high-velocity to punch through the target. That would be effective for some of the MBTs victims Either way, the ultimate question about replacing conventional tank guns with magnetic KEW is why. Today's tank weaponry is highly lethal, effective, and it seems that the role of the tank is changing. There would have to be a reason to abandon the tank guns of today, and spend the R&D money on an armored vehicle that could use and power such a weapon. Future tanks that would be faced with giant mecha, Godzilla, or aliens with superior material  knowledge could spur development of these types of KEW. However, as it stands now, it looks like railguns will be a seabourne weapon system.    

Multiple Barrels?
If one barrel is good on a tank...than what about two or three? It is true that a few older tank designs called for two and three barrels, especially some of the more outlandish Nazi designs. When we are talking about current MBTs, there simply is no need for a double 120mm barreled tank, the Abrams can dish out the pain just fine with a single 120mm cannon. When you double the cannons on a MBT, you automatically double the ammunition needs, loading system, and needed space for these items in the cramped interior of the tank. Then there has to be an increase in the engine size to deal with the addition weight, more fuel consumed, and more possibility of breakdown...in general, follow the KISS rule. There is a possibility of multiple barrels when applied to a futuristic tanks due to some future weapon systems. When I play HALO, which if often, I always wish that the UNSC M-808 Scorpion tank mounted more than just the single 88mm HV cannon and the .50 cal, when I have to deal with multiple targets.
 While the Scorpion has an advanced auto-loader system, it does not load faster enough to deal with the threats that are incoming, I really wanted the 25mm Gauss cannon as a secondary...and that could be the reality of multiple cannons, since  Gauss gun would be less trouble than another main gun. If we discussing directed-energy weapons, it could be possible for a double-lens laser tank, or particle cannon tank, allowing for rapid fire, and greater dwelling time on-target. When using lasers would benefit due to the lack of need for a long barrel, decreasing the armored vehicles profile and space requirements.

Defensive Systems

Originally, tanks were covered in armor composed of rolled homogeneous steel armor that were inches thick. Often, the thickness of this steel labelled the tank classification and how the tank behaved in combat. The placement and amount of steel armor was weighted against the engine's abilities to move the vehicle. For much of the Second World War, tanks were protected by steel and luck. Several developments changed that, shaped-charge anti-tank rockets and the Soviet's sloped armor on the T-34 were the beginning of new technology. In the 1950's, the first tank was fitted with composite armor was the experimental T95 medium tank, that laterly led to the M60 Patton, but the Soviets were the first to fit to a mass produced tank with composite armor with the T-64. The next great evolution of tank armor came in the 1960's in Britain with the invention of Chobham armor. This mix of ceramic tiles, metal matrix (depleted uranium), bonded to a backing plate was added to British and American MBTs since the 1970's, and has seen success in combat against anti-tank rockets and main gun rounds.  

Reactive Armor
In the arms race between the weapons and armor of the tank, the development of the HEAT round created the reactive 'counter-explosive' armor plates. These explosive plates use a counter explosive to blow the jet of molten cooper away from the tank. These technology is nothing new, reactive plate armor has been around for decades, but now, a new of reactive armor is on the horizon: electric reactor armor. It is still experimental, but it uses a closed circuit between two plates to dump a powerful electrical charge, vaporizing the threat. Little is known about this electric armor, and has never been tested battle. Another type of reactive armor is called smart armor that used microchips and microsensors embedded in the armor to gauge the threat and customize the response in explosive output or even projectile.

Aersol Grenades
Most anti-tank missile and MBT gunnery systems use laser target beams, and to disrupt these beams, the Russians have developed their "Shtora" active protection system. One portion of this APS is aersol smoke screen grenades that obscure the laser beam. This is highly effective when mounted to an automatic defensive system. When a laser beam is detected, the aersol grenades are activated and blanket the tank.

Smoke Screen
If you can't see it, you can't hit it. That rule has been at the heart of all types of combat, from survival from predators, to MBTs locked in armored warfare. Smoke screens allow for a tank to avoid being hit by accuracy tank while they preposition or evade. Current protection system use automatic smoke grenade launching systems to counter a threat.

The current Russian T-90 MBT mounts two red eye appearing lamps on either side of the main gun. These are part of the Shtora active defense system, and they are technically dazzlers. Dazzlers are a directed energy weapon that uses IR beams to blind their target and on the T-90 MBT, it blinds to counter laser aiming beams for anti-tank rockets. These two red eyes could also used on infantry and some urban combat applications.

Laser Warning Receivers
Lasers are popular means of aiming anti-tank rockets, and that has not gone unnoticed by engineers. Sensors on the last generations of MBTs warn of incoming laser beams, much like modern radar detectors, allowing the crew of the tank to know that they are in the schoolyard and a threat is out there.

The Trophy Active Countermeasure System 

The next evolution for tank defensive systems is the active protection system that automatically senses an incoming threat from rockets and HEAT rounds, and launches a blast of metal pellets to intercept and eliminate the threat. The IDF was the first to mount the "Windbreaker"system that were developed and build by the Israeli company Rafeal Advanced Defense System. The IDF armored corps would mount these on their fourth generation of their Merkava MBT around 2009/2010 and the system costs $600,000 per tank. Since the installment of the Trophy system, there have been three combat uses, and each time the system worked. At the moment, the United States is looking at their own homemade active countermeasure system, but could buy the system from Rafeal. Form their excellent combat record, it seems that these types of active countermeasure systems are the future of tanks.  

The Enemies of the Tanks

Anti-Armor Aircraft
The threat of doom and death does not just come from other tanks or infantry, but from the sky. Since World War II, aircraft have been developed to strike tanks with rockets and machine gun fire. During the Cold War, NATO was under threat from the imbalance of tank numbers that they could not hope to match. Instead, NATO nations invested in technology and other anti-tank platforms, like the specialized anti-armor aircraft (these fighters also doubted as close air support). There is no finer and more deadly example of these types of combat aircraft than the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt (AKA the Warthog). With a unique 30mm airborne eclectic rotary gun that spits death and the air-to-surface laser-guided AGM-65 Maverick missiles, one A-10 mean an end to a mechanized tank platoon. To protect themselves, mechanized tank platoon often field self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon, like the ZSU-23-4.

Infantry Based Anti-Tank Weapon Systems
Infantry anti-tank weapon systems are nearly as old as tanks themselves. During World War One, the Germans developed an armor-piercing rifle round along with the first of anti-tank guns, and anti-tank artillery pieces. World War II saw much progress in the realm of infantry portable weapon systems with devices like Panzerfaust, the Bazooka, and anti-tank mines. More unorthodox systems were developed, like the Soviet anti-tank dogs, and the German Goliath remote controlled tracked mine device. While some of the weapons were effective, they were largely outclassed by heavier armor, and most tank guns and WWII rockets were phased after the Korea War. Of course, close infantry assault always works, especially in the pages of Sgt. Rock.
Lightweight portable anti-tank weapons gained new effectiveness during the Cold War with the developed of HEAT rounds and guidance systems. Weapons like TOW, where a thin wire connected the operator and missile, allowing for in-flight course corrections became one of the most popular anti-tank weapons. While the TOW were bulkier systems, more lightweight weapons like the Sovet RPG and American LAW rocket proved portable, but not as effective. In the 1988 masterpiece, Team Yankee, a mechanized infantry unit engages T-72 tanks with dozens of LAW rockets to be effective. During the late 1970's, with the development of composite armor, the arms race between the tank and counter-systems turned in favor of the armor until anti-tank missiles like Swedish BILL that attacked its target from above were the armor was its weakness. During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War and the War in Iraq, the effectiveness of anti-tank missiles and IEDs have been proven on MBTs, but now with systems like Trophy, it seems the race is still firmly ongoing.

Anti-Tank Missile Systems
Armored vehicles like the IFV M2 Bradley, FV510 Warrior, and the BMP cannot mount a anti-tank main gun, so they turn to vehicle mounted anti-tank rockets, like the TOW. These allow for a APC/IFV to counter the threat of enemy armor. When the Warsaw Pact armored vehicle threat was forefront on the mind of NATO, some APC hulls were repurposed for anti-tank roles using TOW missile launchers.

Mines and IEDs
Speaking to the dangers of mines and IEDs  to the modern tank, more M1 Abrams were lost to IEDs and mines (and friendly fire) laid down by insurgents than to direct combat actions by the Iraqi military in the 2003 Invasion.Only 18 M1 Abrams were destroyed in 1991's Desert Storm, with no tank crews killed. During Sand Box II, over 80 (out of a thousand hit by enemy fire) of the MBTs have been knocked out by lower-tech mines and IEDs so badly, that they had to be shipped back to the US for major repair. From repairs from Iraq, the insurgents use roadside bombs to knock out the tank tread, stopping it dead, then led up with fire from RPGs, mortars, and other small arms at specific targets on the tank that are less armored. At times, the tank crews have been forced to engage these hostiles with small arms (mostly pistols) until a QRF arrives.

Attack Helicopters
The anti-tank attack helicopter, like the American AH-64 Apache was developed to counter the numerical advantage that the Warsaw Pact had over NATO. The angels of death are used to soften up targets prior to the mechanized units arrival, or to intercept enemy forces will beyond the range of tanks, and end the thread before the hostiles are in range. If and when a enemy tank commander sees these insect-like brings of destruction, they know that they are fucked... that is if they see the helicopters. The Hellfire missile that is targeted via laser beams has an operational range of five miles, and the Apache was designed to fight at night, making matters worse for the enemy armored units. There are some AAA defenses, especially designed tanks for example, but they have to see the target to engage the target, and attack choppers like the Apache make that a difficult task.

The Future of the Tank
Given the decreased threat of the Soviet Union of invading Germany, and resulting large-scale armored battles, the role of the sixty ton main battle tank came into question, especially with the advent of lighter armored vehicles like the M1128 Mobile Gun System that mounted a tank-killing 105mm gun and the flexibility of air-mobility. That reality ended when IEDs started to take out the M1 Abrams on the streets of Iraq, and forced the US Army to alter the fate of the future of heavier armored vehicles. In the short-term, armored vehicles like the tank will be made smarter with technology via automated weapons, sensors, and networking. The main gun will be upgraded with electrothermal-chemical guns for increased velocity. For protection, the tank will receive automated active countermeasure systems, like Trophy, and greater improved in armor technology to increase protection and save weight, allowing the next-gen MBT to be more portable around the global. It is hoped that the next generation of MBT will be more green in terms of fuel economy with this weight saving.

Tanks and Sci-Fi
In 1903, H.G Wells composed a short-story called the Land Ironclads and predated the emergence of tanks in warfare by 11 years: "The enemy's monsters were dubious patches of darkness upon the dark, and then no longer dubious, and so they crept out into distinctness." The story, which you can read for free, is interesting describing the horror of tanks (he didn't call them 'tanks') on the World War One battle fields. Because of H.G. Wells' popularity, some of the early supporters of the tank cited his story has an influence, although Mr. Wells took no credit, and distant himself, given the horror of World War One.Given the power and awe that tanks generated in the First and Second World Wars, it was easy element for sci-fi writers to add into their future war stories. However, it was not until the 1960's and 70's, that the tank was fully integrated into science fiction with works like Soldier, Ask Not (1967) Bolo (1976) and Hammer's Slammers (1979)Tanks would receive more attention from sci-fi in the 1980's with the popularity of military pen-and-paper RPGs, and in the pages of manga (Grey) and in anime (Mobile Suit Gumdam), and in more video games than I can count. However, the one area that Science fiction tanks are much more rare is in live-action sci-fi works, and this could be due to the heavy expense of the special effect associated with getting a sci-fi tank correct. The Hunter-Killer tanks from Terminator, all manner of armored vehicles from Star Wars, and the CGI Chig T77 tank from Space:Above and Beyond were rare exception. I can only hope that with the amazing level of CGI SFX today that more futuristic tanks will be seen.     


The Laser Lunar Tank from Space: 1999 
In the season one episode  'the infernal machine' of the 1970's space TV show, Space: 1999, the lost and wandering lunar base, Alpha, deploys automated lunar rovers armed with lasers to dealt with a hostile, sentient computer. These three laser tanks operated in conjunction with armed Eagle transports in a off-world combination arms strike...rarely seen in early sci-fi. Three designs were used for the laser lunar tanks, but all used the Tamiya British Chieftain tank model kits as their foundation by Martin Bower in 12 days, and were seen in the background of some shots later in the series, but never used again to the same extent.

Various American Tanks from ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manual
In the 1996 Colonial Marines Technical Manual there are three tanks mentioned to be used by the CMC: the M22A3 'Jackson' M34A2 'Longstreet' and the M40 'Ridgway'. Right off the bat, these range from light to heavy tanks, which means this older idea would have return in the 23rd century, and it seems to be linked to starlift capability of the CMC at this time. The manual speaks of the new dropship, the UD-24, that will be able to shuttle down the heavier M40 Ridgway tanks, allowing for the older tanks to be completely phased out. While most of the Colonial Marines Technical Manual is highly detailed, it leaves a great deal blank about these three tanks.
 It only includes brief information on the switch from the older M22A3 to the newer M40, and the armored combat on the Linna-349 colony. What is mention is that the new M40 MBTs are able to work with a crew of two(!), have autoloaders, fire 115mm shells at 60 RPM, and anti-air defense is a 20kW phased plamsa point-defense cannon that is automated by the central tank computer system. Only the M22 and M40 are seen and both remind me heavily of the Isreali Merkava tank.

Armies of the Southern Cross/REF Veritech 'Spartas' Hover-Tank from the ROBOTECH Universe
Ground-based mecha in the ROBOTECH series have always taken a backseat to the much cooler Veritech fighters, but that was not so in the (unloved) Second Robotech War series, the Robotech Masters and the hover-tank of the Southern Cross. The Hover-tank was developed due to the conditions of the scarred Earth after the Zendraedi Holocaust where human cities were separated by vast distances. The transformable anti-gravity tank was able to quickly adapt to changing conditions, from tank in overland combat in the moonscape, battloid for urban operations, and guardian mode for artillery support, which leaves the operator comically open to incoming fire.
When it came to weaponry, the Spartas Hover-Tank mounted three offensive systems, a large-bore cannon, a tri-barrel rotary cannon, and a smaller pulse-beam cannon that was used in battloid for the hand-held DE rifle, and mounted to the hood in tank mode. There is some debate on the nature of these weapons. While it is clear that the hand-held 'gun' is a DE pulse-beam rifle, but some sources claim that the rotary cannon is either 37mm bullets or 32mm or even some type of pulse-laser-bolts, and the main cannon, it either fires 105mm HV shells, or is a rapid-fire ion cannon. I had the 1980's Matchbox Hover-Tank toy, and was always disappointed that it didn't transform into the 'tank' variant...pity.

The M2 'Ursa' Hover-Tank from the Hammer's Slammers Universe

Undoubtedly, one of the celebrated military science fiction properties that involves tanks is David Drake's Hammer's Slammers. The basic tank, the Icarus Industries M2 'Ursa' uses a fusion powerplant coupled with inducted fans and air-cushions for movement. The top speed of the M2 hover-tank is about 75 MPH on a good surface, but base speeds are around 40 MPH (similar to most MBTs of today), and have a maximum hover height of three feet. Much like all tanks, the M2 Ursa has a main gun for armored engagements, but, instead of conventional shells, the Hammer's Slammers universe uses the power-gun.
The power-gun is not the traditional DEW, and works by converting metallic cooper-cobalt atoms into energy via a system of pressure, heat, and magnetic. What is expsended from the 3 meter long barrel is a plasma bolt that travels at the enemy at near light-speed and deliveries massive thermal damage. That is fired at eight plasma-rounds per minute, and 800 rounds are carried onboard. Twenty rounds are kept in a magazine that allows for firing every two seconds, but can led to dangerous heat levels that could warp the barrel. The range of the weapon is limited by terrian, but can be several hundred miles, and can be used to attack orbital targets(!).  Liquid nitrogen is used to cool the power-gun from the massive heat generated. And this being the future, advanced A.I. computer technology allows the crew to be kept small at two: driver and gunner/commander. All of the tank is wrapped in cast iridium alloy that is better protection against directed energy weaponry.

The Tachikomas, Think Tanks, and Fuchikomas from the Ghost in the Shell Universe
Any reader of FWS knows how much I enjoy the work of Masamune Shirow, and it maybe an odd fit to include these three types of futuristic military robotics into a discussion of tanks, but I believe Shirow could be showing us the future. All three of the combat mecha are single pilot robotic vehicles designed for warfare in a crowned urbanized future, and could be the future of armored vehicles. The Fuchikomas seen in the pages of the original manga and PSOne video game, blur the lines between power armor, mecha, and a personal urban mobile weapons platform that just happens to be an AI. Due to copyright issues, the Fuchikomas could not appear in the TV series nor the 1995 film, and were replaced by the Tachikomas developed by Shirow.
This slightly larger, improved version of the Fuchikoma served with Section 9 throughout their Stand Alone Complex TV series as mobile gun platform, transport, and more spider-like than the older Fuchikomas. These AI one-man tanks were armed with 7.62mm machine gun and 50mm grenade launcher, along with all manner of cyber-attack programs. Traditional tanks are not really seen in the GITS universe, and the closest armored vehicle is the spider-like walker think-tank. These were seen in the manga, original movie, and later TV series. The most memorable apperance was at the end of the 1995 OVA, when the Major takes on a six-legged HAW206 Think Tank armed with rotary cannons and a grenade launcher. Despite the greater size of the HAW206 walker tank, it is still run with one human operator, mainly due to the AI technology packed into the platform.

'Bonaparte' from Dominion Tank Police

Anyone who reads FWS, knows of my love for Masamune Shirow and his creations. One of the more wacky manga he penned was Dominion Tank Police, where Tokyo (Newport) police are forced to use micro-tanks for patrol work in a future were environmental damage has created the need for those fashionable gas masks outdoors. One of those tank police vehicle is 'Bonaparte' under the loving care of Officer Leona Ozaki and together they figth crime in the haze of the future. Bonaparte is similar in shape and size to the World War One Renault FT tank.  

UNSC M-808 'Scorpion' Tank from HALO Universe
For thirty years, the primary tank of the UNSC has been the M808 'Scorpion' MBT. Firing a 90mm high-velocity shell feed from an auto-loader, and supported by a 7.62mm GPMG for anti-infantry work. The M808B Scorpion could be operated with a crew of two or one with a neural interface (like a SPARTAN), and the 7.62mm machine gun was co-axial, instead of the central turret mounted  of the M808 that required a dedicated gunner. Unlike tanks from the 20th century, the M808 moves on four track-pods that also dual for risky infantry transport. Adding to its tactical flexible on the battlefield, the Scorpion can be ferried between ship and shore via the Pelican tactical transport vehicles, allowing to this tank to be rapid deployed to a changing battlefield. These tanks are seen through the Covenant/Earth War, and in every HALO game with some modifications along the way. 
I love HALO...it's no secret, and one of the highlights, for me, of any HALO game was killing aliens and Flood with the M808. However, I've also had a major bitch about this Terran tank, the lack of anti-infantry weaponry. Sure, you get a 7.62mm MG, but the human gunner has to survive, which seems impossible on certain levels of the games, and the very useful co-axial MG was deleted, causing the main gun being the only source of offensive/defensive armament. Having to use a tank's main gun,with anti-armor shells for anti-infantry, even in the 20th century, is bullshit, and having enemies stand up to the blast. In the HALO novels, there is mention of anti-infantry shell, similar to the 'mega-shotgun' shell used by the M1 Abrams...where is that, 343? We need that in HALO 5! Given the extreme popularity of the HALO games, the Scorpion could be one of the most identifiable and used sci-fi tanks 

The Trade Federation AAT Repulsor Tank from the Star Wars Universe
In the awful Star Wars prequel films, the Trade Federation Droid Army ground forces uses the Armored Assault Tank (AAT). This heavily armored, robotic controlled hover-tank is heavily armed with six forward mounted launch tubes that could fire different types of ammunition, a heavy blaster turret-mounted cannon, and twin anti-infantry rapid-fire blasters. While this is a rather well-designed hover-tank, the odd thing is the AAT is actually crewed by three special battle-droids, that have traditional tank crew roles...but why? Do the Skynet Ground Hunter-Killer tanks have Terminator crews? No. So, why does the AAT?

The COG 'Centaur' Wheeled Light Tank from the Gears of War Universe
This light wheeled tank of the COG has served since the Pendulum Wars, and has proved itself useful in the hell that is the Locust Wars. Given it's small size, and magazine-fed main gun, it was easily adopted for urban combat, and infantry support missions. Despite being a light tank, the Centaur can hold several fully-armored COG soldiers, and operate with a crew of two. Like all things in the COG universe, this is bold, heavy design that looks like more monster truck than tank...but that is the COG universe for you.  
The AI 'Bolo' Supertanks from the Bolo Universe
Okay...I'll level with you, I've never read any of the Bolo stories all the way through, but I am putting on the extensive FWS reading list, and the concept has always been an odd one of me. AI controlled superheavy (32,000+ tons!) sci-fi tanks seems logically, especially when considering the Ghost in the Shell universe. The Bolo tank, made by General Motors was the key element in dirtside planetary defense of the Terran colonies against aliens in the 30th century. Due their advance AI, Bolo tanks had specific personality, and were very intelligence, allowing for their survival on the battlefield. With their AI and combat abilities, Bolo tanks could be used for sentry duty on colonial worlds, even without human oversight. Most later Bolo tanks are armed with plasma cannons or railguns, and missiles, along with point-defense rotary cannons. Much the massive tanks in ORGE, later Bolo tanks could survive a direct nuclear strike...yep...direct nuclear strike and I call bullshit on that. The stories about the Bolo tanks have become one of the key MSF tanks.

The RDF/REF VBT-1 'Centaur' Hover-Tank from ROBOTECH II: Sentients
Besides the Armies of the Southern Cross Hover-tank, the bulk of ROBOTECH ignores traditional MBTs...that was until the comic adoption of the Sentients by Eternity Comics back in '88. In those pages, there was this M1 Abrams like anti-gravity tank, and some fan-sources call it 'the Centaur'. There is almost nothing official on this hover-tank...save for a few panels in combat scenes in the comics, and it is not mention in the Sentients RPG manual. The bulk of the information about this semi-transformable MBT comes from shitty Malcontent Uprisings comics badly published in 1989 by Eternity Comics. According to several ROBOTECH RPG websites, the Centaur was developed the UN Army after the arrival of SDF-1 and Robotechnology, and was in-between stage for the UN Army that was struggling to fit mecha into the modern combat doctrine of combined arms.
The majority of technology used in the Centaur MBT is very similar to the M1A1 Abrams, in armor, weaponry (120mm smoothbore gun), engine, design, and function. However, the Centaur has a crew of two and can transform into a GERWALK mode...for some reason. There were several variants manufactured over the course of the Robotech Wars, and fought in the 2013 Malcontent Uprisings, the 2nd Robotech War and Invid Invasion with the Southern Cross. When the 10,000 member REF left Terra in 2022, they carried a small number of the Centaur tanks with them. I personally think that artists for Eternity Comics lifted the design for the Centaur tank from the Renegade Legions anti-gravity MBTs.  

The Cyber-Tanks of the OGRE and G.E.V Universe
The original OGRE was a micro-game developed by Steve Jackson of Metagaming Concepts in 1977, and gained popularity in the paper-and-pen RPG crazy of the early 1980's. Micro-games were the Gameboy/PSP of the RPG world, where you stash one of these in your pack, and break with some friends for some quick hexgraph RPG fun. These were cheaper than the TSR boxsets and sold at hobby and comic stores back in childhood (I can remember them at Starbase 21 in Tulsa). OGRE was set in a dark post-nuclear world after the Last War in 2080, where these massive computer-controlled floating fortress roaming the post-fallout landscape with domination, and it seems that these OGRE were remnants of the governments that died out in the nuclear exchange, but these things are still roaming around, and infantry in NBC suits and armored vehicles attempt to stop these beasts.The reason for the OGRE cyber-tank supremacy was its ability to survive direct nuclear strikes, and shower its targets with independent nuclear warheards via the SATNUC weapon system. It You have guessed that If you want to know more about teh OGRE/GEV universe, than here is the best site on the internet:

The 'Crucio' Terran Siege Tank from the Starcraft Universe
In the world of Starcraft, the Terran Siege Tanks operates both has an main battle tank and mobile field artillery and operate with a crew of 1-to-2. Given this ability to fulfill both combat roles, these siege tanks have two modes that alter their chassis. In 'tank' mode, the Crucio armored vehicle uses conventional treads to move about, and twin 90mm main plasma guns to attack heavily armored targets. When long-range artillery mode is needed, the Crucio transforms, and puts down its stabilization legs to counter recoil of the single barrel 180mm shock-cannon that uses super-heated tungsten to burn its victims.  

The 'Hammerhead' Tau Anti-Gravity MBT from Warhammer 40K Universe

In the Warhammer 40k Tau Codex, this anti-gravity MBT of the Tau race is listed as a 'gunship'...odd, but it used like a tank and cannot achieve the altitude of a typical gunship. The primary armament of the Hammerhead is a devastating railgun, that can counter the Imperial armor, and as a host of other secondary armaments, like AI-controlled gun drones, ion cannons, and fusion cannons, but can be modified per the tactical condition. Three control the Hammerhead, and there is little room for nothing. During the Taros Campaging, the Hammerhead reaped a heavily toll on the Imperium Leman Russ tanks.

The Tanks from the Battletech Universe
In the Battletech universe, tanks are combat support for larger and more expensive mechs, while using all types of locomotion systems; from hover-cushions, wheels, and tracks.  Holding back tanks from being as offensive as the mechs is their power generation and armor protection, along with the lack of psychological factor that mechs possess. I played Battletech back in the day, when it was popular. and I can remember thinking how odd it was that tanks still existed in the Battletech universe if they have mechs? Mechs are very expensive to construct and maintain, involve Lostech, require highly trained pilots, easier to transport than a mech, and can mount similar weapon systems as a mech. During height of Succession Wars, mechs and spare parts for them were possible to buy at any price.

The Covenant Type-26 'Wraith' Assault Gun Carrier from the HALO Universe
One of the better designed and common alien tanks in sci-fi is the Type-26 'Wraith' from the HALO universe, and this organic-shaped hover-tank has evolved over the course of the games. Much like the UNSC M808 Scorpion tank, the Wraith can be air-lifted to the battlefield by the common tactical transports of both armies, allowing for the Wraith to be delivered to combat zone when the situation warrants it. Its primary armament is a plasma mortar that lobs massive plasma bolts against armored and infantry targets with crushing results...if they connect. To deal with pesky SPARTANs and ODSTs, the Wraiths are fitted with either auto-firing defensive plasma repeater cannons, or a gunner-operated anti-infantry cannon mounted in the front-center of the vehicle. This has been the only tank seen in use with the Covenant military.  

The Imperial 'Leman Russ' Battle Tank from the Warhammer 40k Universe
Much like the Imperium of Man, the Leman Russ main battle tank is overcooked, heavily armored, crude, offensive, and heavily armed. In service for centuries, this tank is spearheading armor element of the Imperial Legions (the normal ground troops), and crushes targets with its 120mm smoothbore cannon, along with an array of lasguns, storm bolters, and/or heavy flamer. These are normally not attached or assigned to the Space Marine Chapters. The design of this brute is influence by the British World War One 'Mark'series of original tanks.

The Grav-Tanks from the FASA Renegade Legion Universe
This FASA military sci-fi universe takes place in the 69th century, when the Terran Overlord Government (TOG) rules over the vast majority (80%) of the Milky Way, and her many races. The Commonwealth is the organized resistance force composed of humans and aliens against the TOG. Planetary combat is waged between anti-gravity tanks slimming on 'maneuver foils'. One of the interesting things that Renegade Legion explored was the nature of anti-gravity armor and how the armored vehicle would have to be designed around being anti-gravity to achieve lift. Slugfest tank battles are waged using the more array of sci-fi weaponry: plasma, particle, Gauss, and missiles. However, the cool weapon was micro-anti-matter charge launchers that could create fighting positions for the mechanized infantry in the APCs. FWS will be presenting more on the Renegade Legion in a Forgotten Classics blogpost sometime in the near future.

The Tanks from Babylon 5 Wars GROPOS RPG
In 2001, Agents of Gaming, owners of the Babylon 5 Wars RPG licence, decided to add some ground combat to the universe of B5 via GROPOS. AOG came out with a line of miniatures for all areas of ground combat between four of the races: Earth Alliance, Minbari, Narn, and Centauri. Nearly none of these vehicles were seen in the series, save for the Valkyrie VTOL gunship, but AOG attempted to shape each race's ground combat elements with attention to detail.. All manner of technology was feature for the tanks, some used traditional treads, while the more advanced Minbari used anti-gravity technology that made their tanks look more like sperm than fearsome war machines, but all featured artillery, infantry and VTOL craft. Other races were to follow, mostly little seen in the big series, like the Dilgar, Drazi, and Brakiri, but all of these were cancelled just before AOG went out of business.

The Light-Tank from TRON 
In the computer-world of TRON, the light-tank is a key security/military construct for the MCP's rule over the computer-world. These light-tanks original code was written by Kevin Flynn for the video game Space Paranoids along with the Recognizers. Their primary, and only seemingly, weapon is an rapid-fire arrow-projectile launcher that is mounted to an 360 degree turret. While these projectiles' are powerful, they offer no splash-damage, and seem to need to be arched, due to gravity in the computer-world.
Normally, these light-tanks are crewed by three: driver, commander, and gunner, but can be crewed by one program (like Clu in TRON). These vehicles are an important symbol of the MCP's power in the computer-world and continue to be used after the liberation of the computer-world from the MCP, and are seen in TRON: Legency.     


  1. A further note on why the British adopted the term "tank": The crews had a rather bad reaction to the "self-propelled water carrier" cover, as it would result in them being known as the "WC Brigade"[1]. This resulted in the cover being tweaked to "self-propelled water tank".

    As for tanks in Battletech: As in most of the mecha wargames, the tanks in Battletech were better than the 'mechs. The various editions of BT instituted rules to try and cripple tanks in order to give players some reason to actually use battlemechs.

    [1] For those in places like the US: WC=Water Closet=toilet

  2. For the Bolo stories, I suggest starting off with Laumer's short stories (which began the series. Most can be found in the "The Compleat Bolo" anthology). "Combat Unit", "Field Test" and "The Last Command" are the main ones to focus on, and can be read in one sitting.

    1. David Drake's "As Our Strength Lessens" may be the best Bolo short story and a great tansition form the worls of the Slammers to the Dinochrome Brigade

  3. WC brigade! Priceless! I remember using tanks and infantry in Citytech, and in the video games. Sad, that detuned the tanks.
    Thanks for the advice on the Bolo stories! I'm going to read this for a future review blogpost.
    Thanks for reading commenting!

  4. Very interesting and informative article.

    The Tiberium Command and Conquer games have a number of tanks, many ranging from the types listed above. GDI (which is noted for being a Powerhouse faction) tend to use MBTs and the occasional Superhavey tank (the iconic Mammoth tanks Mk. 1, 3, and 4).

    However, Nod is the one with the really interesting designs. Due to it's nature, they lack the industral resources of their foes, and have to take a cunning approach. They use Light tanks, because they're cheap, plentiful, and easier to move. They have huge flamethrower tanks, high tech Invisible tanks, laser tanks, and sometimes tanks that can burrow underground. It's a whole werid arensal.

  5. Great article as ever...though it might be interesting to touch more on the subject of less common tank designs as AMX-13 with it's oscillating turret.

    Will (I hope you don't mind ;) ), this time you overdid yourself with length and information of the article. I am looking forward for more interesting articles...submarines someone? :D :D

  6. I will add submarines to the draft blogposts! That would be an interesting topic...thanks for the subject! This topic was massive, much more than I original believed, after a month of working on, my wife, friends, and co-workers were sick to death of hearing about tanks. Some people, my wife included, thinks I'm insane for the depth of exploration I do on these subjects, but that is the mission of FWS.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. A really good article and a nice read. You give a good overview over all important aspects of modern tanks!
    I just have one question: You included the Hammerhead and the Leman Russ yet left out the space Marine Land Raider tank. While the Hammerhead surely is SciFi, the Leman Russ is pretty conventional from its layout. I would have loved to read some sentences concerning the Land Raider which is more focused on protection than firepower, something you mentioned while writing about the Merkava. Do you regard the Land Raider more as a 'upgraded APC'? I got the impression from the WH40K Universe that it is capable of having an influence on enemy vehicles and tanks besides providing transport so I would have included it and dropped the Leman Russ.

  8. I was going to include it, even had a sweet picture for the entry, but I cut it due to me just being done with writing about tanks after a month of research, writing, and rewriting. I agree, I should have included it on the list, it would have made a better entry for the Imperium of Man. I attempt to use common and uncommon entry for the sci-fi example sections, and somethings I make a bad call, thanks for the heads up and commenting and reading!

  9. Shorta-1 isn't a laser dazzler. Its an IR lamp based strobe like which confuses the missile tracking system on older models of SACLOS anti tank missile. The strobe light on the back of the missile is masked by the strobe on the tank causing the tracking system to throw the missile off course. This system does not work on the latest SACLOS missiles such as TOW-2 which introduced two color tracking beacons and better pulse filtering.

    The T-90 countermeasure package does have a laser warning device, but the countermeasure to laser guided weapons is the deployment of special dusty smoke grenades. The Chinese Type 99 tank has been speculated to have a laser dazzler cupola on the top of the turret, but in reality nobody actually knows what this cupola does. It could be a target designator or other system.

  10. Will, u should play planetside 2 if not already. There's this tank called the prowler. The game is also coming to ps4 soon so if u want to wait til then hav fun.

  11. Taking a direct nuclear hit isn't outside the realm of possibility. Remember, the Orion was designed to ride nuclear detonations into orbit. Also, the Trinity test stand wasn't vaporized, almost all of the structure survived and a nuclear bomb was detonated inside it.

    A nuclear weapon's destruction is wrecked in really three ways, heat, blast, and radiation.

    While the thermal pulse is the source of most of the destruction it's not a direct killer. The thermal pulse is so short in duration that while it's extremely high temperature there's no real time for the heat to be conducted through something like a metal, certainly not something as thick as armor plate. So you char the exterior but that's about all you do. The thermal pulse simply isn't sustained long enough to "vaporize" anything of significance. Again, the Trinity test stand wasn't vaporized, it was just blown apart.

    The blast is a result of heating up the air around the bomb and it expanding. The blastwave is usually what's responsible for things being "vaporized" though more accurately they're just blown to pieces and unidentifiable. While the blast wave is impressively powerful so is armor plate. A pressure of a few hundred, or even few thousand psi uniformly across an armor plate will do almost nothing to it. If its not secured it'll be moved and potentially damaged but the pressure alone will do little. Bolo's are often described as upside down trapezoids, truncated pyramids, etc. in other words exactly the right shape to ride out a blast wave. The Russians designed the IS-7 in this general shape for a nuclear battlefield and the US's Hard Mobile Launcher for nuclear missiles.

    Radiation, that's the real problem. While I don't doubt that a 32,000 ton tank with meter+ thick armor could take a hit from a nuclear weapon it's going to wind up positively glowing afterwards after it's hard gamma ray bath and the resultant fallout that's going to completely cover it. That said, given how thick the armor is and how deep the one man crew is that some use, the commander will likely be unaffected.

    Nuclear bombs are great for destroying soft targets like cities, not so great at killing armored targets like tanks the size of battlecruisers.

  12. (Sorry if this is a double post, I can't see the one I thought I made)

    There is a number of typos that appear on the blog and they are for the most part each to sort around, but it would be nice if you would let one of us help you sort them out for future readers?

    I'm pretty happy that you were able to sort out so any new ideas for tanks however.

  13. Also you forgot ETC, which the goverment has done research on and is closer to achieving in tanks then Railguns.

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  15. What you missed about the BOLO taking a direct hit from a nuke was some variants had shields that absorbed all that energy and redirected it to the weapons systems. Yes, I'm a BOLO fan and have read a few. The main gun was for the later versions basically fired a small piece of star like matter that was extremely radioactive. Though I do think you might be a bit light on the weight of these tanks as they got upwards in the mark numbers. If you compare some of the later ones to the German idea of the super tank called the Rat, at a around 1000 tons, it'd be an extreme light weight to many BOLOs. They tended to go THROUGH things rather than around or over.