U.S. Army’s New Lightweight Tank
Picture: Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air-transportable light tank
The US Army plans to build prototypes in the next several years of a new lightweight Mobile Protected Firepower armoured vehicle expected to change land war by outmatching Russian equivalents and bringing a new dimension to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack.
Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armoured vehicle attacks and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain
“Mobile Protected Firepower helps you because you can get off-road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview earlier this year.
Smith did not elaborate on any precise weight but did stress that the effort intends to find the optimal blend of lethality, mobility and survivability. Senior Army leaders, however, do say that the new MPF will be more survivable and superior than its Russian equivalent.
The Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air-transportable light tank, according to Russian news reports, weighs roughly 20 tons and fires a 125mm smoothbore gun. It is designed to attack tanks and support amphibious, air or ground operations. The vehicle has been in service since 2005. US Army weapons developers have said their MPF will likely be heavier to ensure a higher level of protection for US soldiers.
In light of these kinds of near-peer adversaries with longer-range sensors, more accurate precision fires and air support for a mechanized ground assault, the Army is acutely aware that its maneuvering infantry requires armoured, mobile firepower.
Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armour, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.
Accordingly, Smith explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support. This fast-changing calculus, based on knowledge of emerging threats and enemy weapons, informs an Army need to close the threat gap by engineering the MPF vehicle.
While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly. The MPF represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability. Therefore, it is no surprise that two MPFs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.
Rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.