The tank has dominated battlefields for the last 100 years. Heavily armed and heavily armored, tanks have repeatedly proven themselves the arm of decision on the battlefield, even in the face of repeated challenges from other weapons such as bazookas, anti-tank guns, and even guided missiles. But as the threat evolves so must the tank, which raises the question: What will the tanks of the future look like?
Writing for Army Technology, Dr. Gareth Evans several key technologies that could become standard issue on future main battle tanks. Technologies that give tanks a good defense without covering them in heavy armor, for instance, the idea being that making tanks harder to detect and more difficult to hit means tanks can shed heavy plates of steel. This can be accomplished by giving them stealth technology and reducing their infra-red signature, which makes them harder to find. Active protection systems, which can shoot down incoming rockets and missiles, makes them harder to hit. Once they shed heavy armor, tanks become lighter, more maneuverable, and easier to ship across the world.
Robotics is another field that will benefit tanks. While the military will likely keep a "man in the loop" in lethal situations for the foreseeable future, robots could share a human tank crew's work load, so they can concentrate on more important business. A single tank might command a swarm of smaller robots scouting ahead in its path, alerting the tank of nearby enemies and allowing tankers to concentrate on other pressing matters.
Finally, research in directed energy weapons—particularly lasers and rail guns—will eventually lead to tank-mounted weapons. The problem is that energy weapons require an immense amount of energy, which is something that a tank can't just haul around. Smaller lasers, with smaller energy requirements could be used against unmanned aerial vehicles and other enemy threats.
These all seem to be likely areas of advancement, but what will the future really hold? We'll have to wait to find out for sore.