Shock Effect

Modern militaries are upgrading their MBTs to cater to the modern battlefield

Atul Chandra

Modern militaries the world over are upgrading their Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) to cater to the rapidly evolving changes in the modern battlefield. MBTs remain a potent force on the battlefield and provide much needed firepower and mobility for armies worldwide. However, they are now facing a host of threats, ranging from unmanned systems, loitering munitions, 5th generation Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) and more.

The ongoing Ukraine-Russia war and the performance of Russian MBTs against Western armour and ATGMs and vice versa is also informing the modernisation efforts of many MBTs worldwide. Two large-scale operators of modern MBTs, the USA and Israel, have recently showcased their plans for MBTs that will be a force to reckon with on the battlefield.


Israel Unveils Future MBT

In September, Israel’s Ministry of Defence (IMOD) revealed the Israel Defence Force’s (IDF) future MBT “Barak”. The cutting-edge new MBT has been developed over a five-year period and the Barak is the first 5th generation MBT to enter service globally. The development of this MBT was undertaken by the Tank and APC Directorate of Israel’s Ministry of Defence, the Israeli Ground Forces and the Armoured Corps.

The IDF’s 52nd Battalion of the 401st Armored Brigade took delivery of the first mass-produced Barak MBTs in September this year. The new MBT will go on to replace the Merkava MBTs operated by the Israeli Armored Corps, to become its main MBT. Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant said the innovative Barak MBT took manoeuvring capabilities to another level, and that “it is a clear expression of our technological capabilities.” Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and ELTA Systems Ltd are only a few of the Israeli companies involved in this programme.

The Barak MBT features a low profile for minimal exposure in combat situations and its fire capabilities have also received a significant upgrade. It is equipped with advanced sensors and makes extensive use of artificial intelligence (AI) processing. In fact, is the first MBT worldwide to have its complete sensing and front-end processing based on AI. This is used to reveal the enemy and create targets for the fighting forces on the battlefield. For the first time, in an MBT, its commander will have access to a helmet mounted display which is linked to external cameras to offer 360-degree peripheral observation.

The commander’s combat helmet which has been developed by Elbit Systems is similar to pilot helmets and displays relevant combat data. It allows 360-degree scanning by moving the head and locates targets in real time with the help of AI capabilities. The commander’s sight and gunner’s sight are linked with continuous and up-to-date intelligence collection, fusion and sharing capabilities. The tank also features multi-touch screens (similar to smartphone devices) and advanced operation controllers, allows easy and accessible operation for the tank crew, and enables them to quickly react to any evolving situation.

The MBT is fitted with an improved tank and artillery sight with advanced observation and night capabilities, with an improved net cross. These new capabilities will allow the Barak to fight in urban and close quarter battles, along with better protection throughout the entire battle, thanks to its new Rafael WindGuard advanced defence system which protects against ATGMs. The Barak MBT’s ability to quickly produce and extract information and transfer it to other IDF strike teams, as part of a target bank, as well as the ability to transfer intelligence in real time between forces, is a real gamechanger.

In May, the IDF also took delivery of its first Eitan Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), which entered service with the Nahal Infantry Brigade. Each Eitan APC delivered to the IDF will replace older M113 vehicles. The eight-wheeled APC can carry twelve combat personnel and is based on technologies from the Merkava MBT and Namer Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs). The Iron Fist Active Protection System (APS) will also be implemented in the near future together with additional systems developed with Israeli security industries. The 750-horsepower Eitan APC has high all-terrain manoeuvring capabilities and can drive at around 90 kilometres per hour.

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