В article "Prospects for the development of a tank fleet, taking into account global trends" sets out the results of the discussion by representatives of the military and industry at a scientific-practical conference on the future of the Russian tank fleet. Based on the results, rather interesting conclusions were drawn. On some of them in terms of layout diagrams tank future, firepower, robotization and command control of the tank, I would like to dwell in more detail.
Layout of the tank
Experts noted the conceptual ambiguity of the tank due to different approaches to the alleged nature of future wars. On the one hand, tanks must meet the requirements for conducting large-scale combat operations, on the other hand, for participation in local conflicts of varying intensity, including in urban agglomeration, requiring different approaches to the concept of a tank.
Depending on the type of hostilities, the requirements for the tank will be fundamentally different, and the layout schemes may be different. Experts came to the conclusion that in high-efficiency conflicts, a manned main tank of a classic layout will be in demand, while the tank's crew should be of three people with the possibility of their interchangeability.
In the 80s, I had to deal with the justification of the number of the crew, and then, based on the analysis of the workload of the crew members, an unambiguous conclusion was made that the minimum number of the crew is three people. The analysis showed that it was impossible to combine the functions of the commander to control the tank and the unit, as well as to search for targets, with the functions of the gunner for firing, and the issue of creating a tank with two crew members was then closed.
It should be noted that even the experience of using the T-34-76 and T-60 (T-70) tanks in real combat operations, in which the functions of the commander and gunner were combined, showed the viciousness of such a scheme. So the classic scheme of the tank for the near future, most likely, will be retained, as of today there are still no effective technical means to automate the functions of controlling the movement, fire and interaction of the tank, and to reduce the number of crew members.
For local conflicts of low efficiency, configuration options are possible with different types of weapons, depending on the solution to the combat mission - with heavy and light weapons, including robotic tanks designed for solving specialized tasks.
The question of the unmanned turret, which is the basis for the layout of the Armata tank, remains open so far. There is too little information for an objective assessment of the positive and negative factors of such an arrangement, it takes time to check the decisions made in real operating conditions.
According to experts, the widespread introduction of robotic tanks or tanks robots not yet expected in the near future. They are at the stage of research and development work, and based on their results, a decision will be made on the directions for the development of this type of armored vehicles. This approach is understandable, today there is no tactics for the use of such tanks, there are no reasonable tactical and technical requirements for them, and there are no effective technical means to implement the necessary functions.
The creation of a tank-robot requires the efforts of not so much the developer of the tank, as the efforts of specialized organizations on fundamentally new systems of the robotic complex. For example, such a tank needs good "eyes" to create an integrated picture of the battlefield terrain with the presentation of the picture to the crew members not on the monitor, but in a stabilized information display system associated with the operator's eyes (helmet display or field of view of an observation device). It is impossible to create such a system using video cameras and monitors; fundamentally new technological solutions are needed, which are not yet available. Also, broadband noise-immune and protected channels for transmitting audio and video information are needed, operating under conditions of active jamming and, most likely, on new physical principles.
It should be noted that the palliative attempts being made to present the development of a robotic tank based on the T-72B3 (Shturm tank) do not stand up to criticism and cannot lead to positive results. Much has been written about this tank that these are mainly attempts to promote the ideas of the BMPT "Terminator" only with remote control, for which they cannot find a place in the army.
Such work, of course, is needed, only it should be considered as an opportunity to develop technical solutions for tank robotization, create the necessary systems and algorithms for using such a tank and, possibly, design a simplified version of a radio-controlled tank based on a fleet of outdated vehicles to solve specific reconnaissance tasks. demining, destruction of strong points, etc.
It is unlikely that it will be possible to create a full-fledged robotic tank based on a tank of the previous generation, which was not intended for solving such problems: as a transitional option for using an aging fleet of vehicles, it is quite suitable, the only question is in assessing the cost and effectiveness of such a conversion.
The creation of a robotic tank, and even more so a robot tank, is a separate specialized area of development of armored vehicles, which must begin with determining its purpose, developing tactics for use and place in battle formations, substantiating tactical and technical characteristics, linking interaction with other types of troops on the battlefield, training requirements for specific tank systems and determining the circle of developers and manufacturers of everything necessary for this tank.
This is serious work and, judging by the open information, it has not yet begun, the direction of development of this type of armored vehicles will depend on its results.
So in the near future, the development of a classic main tank with a crew of three people remains, as the main armament is a cannon with an all-weather and all-day fire control system.
The scientific and practical conference came to the conclusion that the main armament of the tank should be a 125-mm cannon - a launcher for firing artillery shells and guided missiles.
Apparently, the previously discussed issue of installing a 152-mm cannon on a tank is no longer relevant and does not arouse interest, since the use of such a caliber is too expensive for a tank and leads to a decrease in its passability and protection due to an increase in the mass of the tank. The use of a 152-mm caliber is promising when creating an ACS based on the chassis of a promising tank to strengthen it in battle formations, and in this direction, most likely, the use of such a gun will go, as the ISU-152 was once created.
According to experts, the Soviet 125-mm D-81 cannon has a reserve for improving and increasing its energy intensity, it has already undergone a number of successful upgrades and can be upgraded further. The main emphasis should be placed on increasing the power of ammunition, especially armor-piercing, work on which is being successfully carried out.
It should be understood here that an increase in the armor penetration of sub-caliber projectiles is often associated with an increase in the length of the projectile, which is not always possible in carousel-type automatic loaders. An increase in the length of the projectile entails an increase in the width of the tank hull, which is limited by the width of the railway platform for transporting the tank. In this regard, the layout of a tank with a different loading principle, most likely, with the placement of ammunition in the rear of the tower, will have to be developed.
To increase the firepower, the task is to ensure effective firing from a tank of more than 5000 m, and this can only be achieved by using a new generation of guided missiles.
Today's laser-guided Reflex missiles do not meet the range requirements and fire-and-forget requirements. In addition, the tank does not have means of detecting targets at a distance of more than 5000 m. Missiles with homing heads are required, operating in various ranges under active jamming conditions and integrated into a single system for tracking the battlefield, target designation and target distribution. This requires the interconnection of the tank with the UAV.
Giving drone each tank will be very expensive, apparently, they will have to equip tank units at the platoon or company level with the creation of special groups of UAV operators with the necessary technical means, included in the structure of the unit and reporting to its commander. This will allow the creation of "remote eyes" for a tank unit, which will also receive information from other participants in the network-centric system involved in solving a specific combat mission.
The fire control system must also undergo major changes, all crew members will need all-day and all-weather observation and aiming devices with high resolution and the required range, as well as with the possibility of duplication in case of failure. The technical groundwork in this direction is quite significant, the task is to optimally integrate the instruments in the tank with other elements of the network-centric combat control system.
Experts noted the insufficient command control of tanks on the battlefield, since the existing controls only with voice unprotected radio communication exclude effective control of tanks and the use of their capabilities when interacting with other forces involved in solving the assigned combat mission.
I've already had to writethat the solution to this problem lies in the plane of creating a network-centric control system of the tactical level, in which the tank is one of the defining elements. It must be equipped with the necessary technical means and built into a system that ensures the interconnection of all forces participating in the solution of the assigned task. Such a system is being developed within the framework of the Sozvezdie-M ROC, and the tank of the future, of course, must be equipped with it. We are talking about the introduction of a tank information and control system, which, as it were, has already been implemented on the Armata tank.
This painful issue has been resolved for many years, work on the creation of TIUS for the first time in the world began in the Soviet Union and has been underway since the 80s, but there is still no such system on tanks for various reasons. The Americans have already implemented the second generation of such systems on the M1A2 tank and continue to successfully implement a tactical control system with elements of a network-centric system in the ground forces, having tested them during the Desert Storm operation in Iraq and made sure of their effectiveness.
The effectiveness of such a system for increasing the controllability of tanks is indisputable, but to create it, a lot of effort must be made, and mainly not by the developers of the tank, but by the designers of specialized systems that ensure the integration of a classic or robotic tank (robot) into a single network-centric control system of the tactical link.