Friday, December 8, 2023

Abrams M1E3, Leopard 2AX: can the French EMBT take part in the ongoing reboot of Western tanks?

Rather than developing a new battle tank, the US Army announced a few weeks ago that it was moving towards a radical evolution of its M1 Abrams, to give birth to the M1E3 Abrams by the end of the decade.

Like Germany and its Leopard 2AX, for the United States it is a question of responding as best as possible, faced with time and technological constraints, to the lessons of the war in Ukraine, and in particular to the massive arrival of drones at all levels of combat.

This approach, which is opposed to the objectives of an MGCS program threatened from all sides, is intended to be pragmatic to respond to the operational, but also commercial, challenges that arise today.

In this context, France, on the basis of a radical evolution of the Leclerc tank based on the EMBT turret, must also invite itself into this race against the clock which has started on both sides from the Atlantic?

The robotic transformation of the battlefield is underway

If there is one crucial lesson to be learned from the 19 months of war in Ukraine, it is undoubtedly the now central role that robotic technologies, more particularly drones, have taken on the battlefield.

Leopard 2A4 Ukraine
The war in Ukraine showed the usefulness of battle tanks, a time destined for the museum according to some.

These intervene in almost all spaces of conflict, whether it involves striking units on the front line, directing long and very long range artillery fire, carrying out air raids or naval forces against the enemy's rear bases, and even to carry out campaigns of terror against civilian populations.

The arrival of these drones and other lurking munitions now influences the operational thinking of military strategists, to the point of shaping, with other often related factors, the very design of new military equipment.

This is how Loyal Wingmen and other Remote Carriers are today at the heart of the design of new generation combat aircraft such as the NGAD in the United States, the British GCAP (Italy/Japan), and the European FCAS.

They also influence the design of new military ships, whether surface combatant units such as destroyers and frigates, large naval and assault ships, mine warfare vessels and even submarines.

This is also the case in the field of land armaments, whether artillery, combat and support armored vehicles, and now the lord of the battlefield, the battle tank.

T14 Armata
The Russian T14 Armata was the first tank to fully integrate the robotics revolution. However, the difficulties it has encountered for almost 10 years now in its development suggest that it was too ambitious for the current technologies mastered by Russian industry.

Indeed, new generation battle tank programs, or should we say rather intermediate generation, such as the K2 Black Panther , the T14 Armata, the Leopard 2A8 or the recently announced Abrams M1E3, are designed around this revolution robotics.

They thus integrate reconnaissance drones for extensive perception of their environment, anti-drone and APS systems to engage and destroy reconnaissance drones and lurking munitions,

Robotics is also entering the passenger compartment, to replace the loader station with an automated system, even within armies attached to the traditional four-man crew until now.

This influence even goes beyond this direct framework, by imposing, for example, lighter and more mobile tanks, with a lower logistical footprint, so as to preserve logistical flows from indirect strikes carried out, again, with the help or by drones.

Planes, helicopters, tanks: their role will evolve in the years to come

Beyond these aspects already applied in combat today, particularly in Ukraine, it appears above all that the ongoing robotic revolution of armies will considerably influence the very role of the pillars of military action.

F-35 and wingman loyal combat drones
Combat aircraft will quickly evolve from the role of vector effector to that of coordinator of combat drones, which will ensure the transport and delivery of munitions.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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  1. Do as with the Rafale , build an evolving tank with a view to longer-term use and taking future developments into account as they go. Maintain skills in our industries and skills and training in the armies

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