Israel prepares the new generation of heavy armored vehicles

Of all the armies in the world, the IDF is undoubtedly one of the most experienced in the use of modern armored vehicles and battle tanks in multiple environments. Far from considering that the battle tank and IFVs are intended to be, in the more or less long term, replaced by land drones, the Israeli Army has undertaken to develop a new generation of heavy armored vehicles, the CARMEL project.

Launched 3 years ago, the Camel project aims, firstly, to identify the technological building blocks that will be integrated into new Israeli armored vehicles. This is how the country's three major defense companies, Elbit System, Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), were able to present their technological demonstrators on Sunday August 3, knowing that, for the IDF General Staff, it is Above all, it is about identifying the technological building blocks that will integrate the program, and not about determining who will be the project manager.

Elbit system and Rafael presented 360° visualization systems for the crew, the first via a virtual reality headset derived from that of the F35, the second via a series of touch screens surrounding the crew, in an approach presented as being a “transparent cockpit”. IAI, for its part, places emphasis on automation, integrating technologies from its ground drone programs. Each of the systems presented also integrates the assets of each company, such as a Spike missile turret and the Trophy active protection device for Rafael, autonomous reconnaissance drones for Elbit, and the use of artificial intelligence for IAI. Note that Elbit's virtual vision headset will also be deployed on the new version of the Merkava Mk4 battle tank.

Elbit helmet Defense News | MBT battle tanks | Construction of armored vehicles
Elbit's virtual reality headset allows the crew to have a 360° view of their environment.

We understand, therefore, that the Camel will become, like the Franco-German FCAS, a system of systems, marking a rapprochement between the functions of heavy armored vehicles and combat aircraft. While the battle tank had, until today, a status inherited from the great tank battles of the Second World War and the Cold War, it is probable that it is now evolving towards a use much closer to that modern combat aircraft. Indeed, the MBT becomes a concentrate of technologies, with multiple detection and counter-detection systems, communication, command and tactical cooperation systems, and several weapon systems allowing different objectives to be engaged. From then on, it entered into a process of evolution aimed at deploying its tactical power in cooperation with all the forces in the theater, in a much richer scheme than before.

In doing so, the tank also inherits the “defects” of combat aviation: much higher acquisition and maintenance costs, complex maintenance and therefore lower availability, and much longer and more expensive crew training. . In the 80s, a majority of Western battle tank crews were conscripts, trained in just a few months, with the systems highly designed to be simple and accessible. On the other hand, it will be impossible, in the future, to entrust a CARMEL, T-14 Armata or MGCS to crews who have not followed a long and rigorous training cycle, closer to that of aircraft crews that of that of the AMX30 or T72.

T14 Armata inside Defense News | MBT battle tanks | Construction of armored vehicles
One of the rare photos of the interior of the Russian T-14 Armata crew capsule, offering an excellent multi-spectral view of the tank's environment.

The effectiveness of these systems will be determined not by their technological wealth, but by the best compromise between these parameters, so as to also take into consideration the criterion of number, too often neglected in Europe in recent decades. It is useful to remember that while the German Tiger and Keonig Tiger heavy tanks were undoubtedly more powerful, better armed and better designed than the Russian M4 Shermans and T34s, it was numbers, not absolute quality, that made the difference.

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