Before writing about a new generation tank, I would like to define what is meant by a new generation of tanks. By the new generation of tanks, we mean a tank that, in terms of the totality of its characteristics, gains a significant advantage in battle over previously created tanks.
Any division into generations is conditional, but let us single out three generations of tanks.
The first generation is conditionally tanks of the First World War, the characteristic features of which are bulletproof protection and anti-personnel weapons (machine guns and weapons with low ballistics).
The second generation is tanks that appeared on the eve of World War II, their distinguishing feature was the presence of an anti-tank gun with armor-piercing shells and armor that could withstand armor-piercing shells.
The third generation of tanks are tanks armed with a smooth-bore stabilized cannon with armor-piercing feathered sub-caliber projectiles (BOPS) and equipped with combined armor with reactive armor (or similar protection).
The fourth generation of tanks can also be distinguished - these are tanks equipped with a panoramic electro-optical sight with an infrared channel, with a developed control system. weapons and an active protection system. But, in our opinion, this is still generation 3+, since it is represented mainly by modernized third-generation samples.
It should be noted that the T-14 "Armata" tank is a generation 3+ tank. Although it has a revolutionary layout that increases the survivability of the crew in battle, it does not provide advantages in battle.
Tanks were created to directly support the infantry in battle. Very soon after their creation, it became clear that the best means of fighting tanks were the tanks themselves. And most of the tanks after the Second World War were built on the principle "to fight their own kind."
But with the development of anti-tank weapons, the situation has changed. Tanks lost the ability to push through enemy defenses. They began to stay away from the enemy, acting as mobile pillboxes, firing from afar. But with the development of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such a safe distance for tanks no longer exists. The main problem is that a tank leading a battle (moving and shooting) cannot be hidden, and its defense is no longer an ultimatum.
The main opponents of tanks now are not the counterparts of the enemy, but portable anti-tank weapons and aircraft, with which the tanks are bad at fighting. The use of various tactics such as the "Syrian shaft" is situational and does not solve the problem. The tank has changed from a hunter to a prey. Everything is aggravated by the increase in the cost of tanks and a decrease in their number in the troops.
The development of tanks has come to a standstill. The increase in the caliber of the gun and the thickening of the armor leads to an exorbitant increase in the mass of the tank, which reduces the operational mobility. The introduction of electrochemical or even electromagnetic weapons, in fact, will not change anything. The existing guns already have significant penetration. Now in a tank duel, the winner is the one who first discovers and more accurately shoots at the enemy. Electrochemical (electromagnetic) weapons will increase the likelihood of hitting tanks and nothing more, but this will hardly affect the effectiveness of destruction of other targets.
A tank with a guided missile weapon is, in essence, a protected anti-tank missile system, the main problem of which is expensive ammunition. Tanks have to fire at various targets, and they cannot afford to spend ATGMs on each target, even in rich countries, because any ATGM is several times more expensive than a simple projectile.
The introduction, so to speak, of unmanned tanks is, in essence, a different class of technology. Namely, autonomous (controlled) robots. For robots, of course, the future, but very distant. Now even supercomputers are not able to distinguish their soldier from the enemy in a real combat situation. And there is still a civilian population? And how will they fight? Shoot whatever they find?
Remotely controlled vehicles also have a number of problems. And this is not only delays in signal transmission and electronic warfare (EW). The remotely controlled vehicle will constantly emit electromagnetic signals that can be used to track and locate it. When using HF directional antennas, the operator must be in line of sight (close) to the machine being driven. And then he himself can be tracked and detected, because his antenna will be directed towards the enemy. The control channel is the Achilles heel of remotely controlled vehicles.
The alleged appearance of the tank
The tank must leave the battlefield, keep in a position closed from the enemy, firing along a hinged trajectory. A UAV will be used to detect the enemy. The tank must have an echeloned active protection system with a multifunctional radar. The appearance of the tank assumed by the author (more precisely, its main features) can be described as follows.
Tank armed with a 152 mm mortar howitzer, with low ballistics, with the ability to fire an ATGM through the bore. Long firing range is not needed. Presumably, shells and artillery mines - up to 5 km, and ATGM - up to 10 km. Tentatively, this gun will be less in weight and dimensions than a smooth-bore tank gun of 125 mm caliber. And in terms of ammunition power it will surpass it. The installation of similar guns has already been done, for example, on the M551 Sheridan tank. But then it was supposed to shoot at targets in line of sight. And within such limits, there is nothing more effective against armored vehicles than BOPS.
On the roof of the turret of the tank, a drone of the type of a quadcopter with control and power supply by wires will be mounted. The UAV will rise to a height of 100-150 m. It will be used not only to detect and determine the coordinates of the target, but also to illuminate the target with a laser. The UAV will allow not only to increase the detection range, but also to solve a number of specific tasks such as inspecting roofs or upper floors of buildings, or it will be able to literally look around the corner of a building.
The installation of a UAV on a tank has already been considered several times. But on existing tanks, the UAV will be of little use or even harmful. Since, having detected a target with a UAV, it is not always possible to hit it with direct fire. And, being distracted by him, the commander can miss the target within sight.
On the front of the tower, phased antenna arrays of a multifunctional radar are mounted, which will be used to detect helicopters, UAVs, enemy equipment and, more importantly, approaching artillery mines and ATGMs.
I would like to emphasize that the radar should not only detect incoming artillery mines, but also determine their trajectory, and calculate the launch point. The radar can be used for missile guidance (radio-command-guided missiles are the easiest to implement) and for firing adjustments. The radar will not work constantly, but will be used according to the situation. The radar detection range is small and its size should also be small. For example, the Armata tank already has a radar, but presumably not powerful enough.
Ammunition will be placed in a vertical carousel ammunition rack under the turret and in the rear of the turret. It is possible to locate longer ammunition there, such as supersonic ATGMs and surface-to-air missiles (of course, no one is going to make an anti-aircraft missile system out of a tank, but it would be nice to shoot down a UAV).
Presumably, the ammunition load will be 30-40 shells, artillery mines and various missiles. Development of new missiles will be required.
For example, let's imagine such a rocket. Two-stage rocket. With the help of the first subsonic stage, the rocket gains altitude and transmits information to the operator through the unwinding fiber-optic wire behind it. After climb, the rocket goes into horizontal flight, and the operator, according to the data from the television (infrared) guidance head, detects the target. Then the target is captured by the seeker. After that, the first stage with a wire is discarded, and the second supersonic stage is turned on. And the rocket flies to the target on its own. This missile can be used without a UAV, according to preliminary reconnaissance data. And if hypersonic unguided missiles are created, then they can become a kind of replacement for BOPS for direct fire. Homing artillery mines are not a bad thing either. In general, there is a great field for imagination. But it is the ammunition that will determine the effectiveness of this tank.
Being in a closed position, the tank will not be threatened by BOPS, which means that the booking can be reduced. And the dimensions of the tank will not play a big role. The main emphasis in defense will be on increasing the ability to actively defend against ATGM and artillery mines.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we do not refuse to make a reservation, we just shift the focus. The tank, although it will try to work from a closed position, must have every opportunity to fight on the move within the line of sight of the enemy. Active protection of the tank must be comprehensive and echeloned. Alternatively, it is worth considering the possibility of placing a small number of anti-missile missiles with radio command guidance on the turret of the tank and using a machine gun to destroy incoming artillery mines.
The crew of the tank is two people: a driver-mechanic and a gunner-operator. We do not refuse the commander, he will be located not far in another vehicle - a control vehicle (command and staff vehicle), made on the basis of a heavy infantry fighting vehicle (BMP). This vehicle will contain the commanders of three tanks and the commander of their unit (perhaps the composition will be different). If necessary, they should be able to remotely connect to the surveillance devices (UAVs) of the tank they control.
The crew's work algorithm will be noticeable as follows. When moving into position, the driver leads the tank, and the gunner controls the situation around the tank through observation devices on the turret. Upon arrival at the position, the driver switches to the observation devices on the tower and monitors the situation around the tank, and the gunner lifts the UAV and searches for targets. Shooting is carried out in an automated mode. All this time, the commander monitors the general situation according to intelligence and interacts with other forces and means, issuing target designations for the tank. I want to note right away that the crew cannot independently maintain and repair the tank, the tanks are becoming more difficult and special units must exist for the maintenance and repair of equipment.
Advantages in battle
Consider a hypothetical collision of an existing modern tank 1 with the proposed tank 2. Tank 2 will be the first to detect tank 1 and open fire, since it has a longer view range due to the UAV, and it is difficult to notice a UAV hovering over the tops of trees or a hill. Tank 2 will use an ATGM against tank 1. Now the main means of countering ATGM is the setting of an aerosol curtain. And if tank 1 is irradiated with a laser, and the ATGM is not launched at it, the protection system will automatically fire off grenades with an aerosol curtain. And after tank 1 emerges from the aerosol cloud, repeat this "hooliganism". And repeat again. Which ends first: aerosol grenades or the patience of the tank commander 1? This means that the aerosol curtain is far from a panacea, like active defense systems (missiles have a wealth of experience in overcoming active defense systems, those who are interested can read about anti-ship missiles).
Even if tank 1 can spot the UAV of tank 2, it just can't shoot at it. Let's say tank 1 managed to get into a direct collision with tank 2. Tank 2 immediately sets up an aerosol curtain. And with the help of the radar, it will detect and attack the tank 1. It is even possible to place the aerosol curtain in advance (by supporting it), raise the UAV above the cloud and fire according to the data from the UAV. Tank 1, due to the aerosol curtain, will not be able to shoot accurately. If tank 1 prefers to sit in cover, tank 2 can gradually move from one cover to another, periodically raising the UAV to assess the situation. The UAV gives a chance to avoid an ambush by literally looking behind possible cover.
In this example, the presence of the command vehicle, where the tank commander is located, was not considered for tank 2. The control machine will not be idle. If she has no one to interact with (receive intelligence data), then she herself will play the role of a reconnaissance machine.
In reality, tanks do not fight separately from the rest of the troops. The main task of the proposed tank will be to work on external target designation. The proposed tank will be able to fire relatively safely. And the main danger for him will be aircraft (UAV) and counter-battery fire.
We can say that this tank is something like an artillery system of the front edge and can only solve tasks of direct fire support for troops. And there are also tasks for reconnaissance in force, so to speak, for "covering with armor", etc. Everything is correct. He does not have to solve these problems. For this, there must be other machines. Such as: heavy combat reconnaissance vehicle, heavy infantry fighting vehicles and so on.
But that is another topic.