A new vision system for tank crews promises to cure one of the worst problems of armored warfare: poor visibility. The Multifunction Vehicle Protection (MVP) Sensor by BAE systems rings the exterior of a tank with high definition cameras, giving crews an all-around view of their surroundings. This will allow tankers to identify and deal with threats faster than ever before, increasing overall vehicle effectiveness and battling crew fatigue.
Tank visibility has been a problem since the invention of the tank in the early 20th century. Soldiers inside tanks need to be able to drive their tanks and shoot at the enemy, but increased visibility makes tanks and tankers more vulnerable. The larger the window or other aperture to increase visibility, the greater the possibility it could be penetrated by incoming tank projectiles, small caliber rounds, or artillery shrapnel. As a result most tankers are restricted to viewing the world through small armored horizontal slits, showing the narrowest view of the vehicle’s surroundings.
The MVP Sensor by BAE Systems is a system of four HD cameras installed on the hull of a tank or armored vehicle. Each camera has a 1920 x 1200 resolution, a 120 degree horizontal field of view, and a 75 degree vertical field of view. Each camera is also tuned to the longwave infrared spectrum, also known as thermal imaging or passive night vision, allowing crew members to see at night and in poor weather, and through dust, fog, and smoke. (Note the forward-facing MVP camera on BAE Systems’ Mobile Protected Firepower demonstrator vehicle at top, on the front of the vehicle hull.)
In the past, different physical positions meant that each crew member has a slightly different view of the world. The MVP Sensor supplements that with the same, HD quality 360 degree view for each and every crew member. This could allow, for example, the tank driver to call out an object for the crew’s attention based on a common view of the battlefield. It could also allow crew members who typically don’t engage scanning for threats, such as the main gun loader, to join in watching the feed from the MVP Sensor’s unblinking gaze.
The MVP Sensor is meant to be part of BAE’s self-protection suite for armored vehicles. MVP can detect and track threats, then cue countermeasures to defeat them. These include “hard” countermeasures such as , an Israeli-designed active protection system that shoots down incoming rockets and grenades and was fitted to the company’s vehicle demonstrator. MVP can also cue “soft” countermeasures like , a directable infrared laser designed to “dazzle” and confuse an incoming laser-guided missile into missing its target. RAVEN is scheduled to begin testing on the Bradley fighting vehicle later this year.
BAE’s approach to armored vehicle defense actually mirrors its approach to aircraft defense. MVP is similar to the company’s Common Missile Warning System, a network of electro-optical cameras fitted to U.S. and NATO aircraft. CMWS cameras detect incoming missiles and then attempt to blind their seekers with the Advanced Threat Infrared Counter Measure infrared laser. CMWS could also cue a flare dispenser and the aircraft version of Iron Fist, currently under development.
During the Arab-Israeli Wars, Israeli armored doctrine required tank commanders to sit exposed in their turrets to gain maximum situational awareness, despite the fact that commanders who did so faced heavy casualties. On the other side of the coin Russian tankers stuck in their tanks in the early years of World War II had a notoriously poor view of the outside world, an issue that contributed to their inferiority versus German tanks. An HD-quality view of the outside world while safely ensconced in the belly of a tank is almost too good to be true. A system like MVP is so useful to armored vehicle crews it will become standard on new vehicles very quickly, while gradually being fitted to older vehicles already in service.