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Tanks are here to stay: What the Army’s future armored fleet will look like


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Heavy metal... it's still going to be in fashion despite the new kids on the block:

Tanks are here to stay: What the Army’s future armored fleet will look like

Whether one is looking at aggression on Europe’s eastern borders, strikes by China against allies in the Pacific or Iranian subterfuge in the Middle East, the current answer to those problems has revolved around ubiquitous sensors to know what’s going on and longer-range, faster-moving fires to hit where it hurts.

The Navy wants more ships with better protection, and a top Air Force general called Army long range fires plans “stupid,” saying his service has that covered. The Marines spent most of the past year ditching tanks to become more nimble in their naval efforts.

But the Army looks on and its top leaders, one of them an aviator, point to an old adage: You don’t win a conflict until you control where people live — on land.

While the Army is putting a lot of its weight behind better fires, networks and sensors, it’s also doubling down on armored vehicles. That means armored troop transports, robotic battle buddies and the mainstay of the ground fight — the tank.

Those big plans are taking a short-term hit if the current Army budget for 2022 is approved.

The Army faces a $3.7 billion funding cut. While the service is keeping money for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program and continuing upgrades to existing tanks and other vehicles, they’re doing less than previously planned and slowing the rate of updating the fleet to save money for modernization elsewhere.

Those would include delays to M1 Abrams tank upgrades and a 10 percent reduction in research funding vital to creating new options for the future vehicle fleet.

Still, advances are coming in every direction, from on board drone swarms and new armor to electronic attack and defense, as well as a host of added formations to support and exploit armor’s role. Armored vehicles and formations may be unrecognizable in the next decade. But the mission remains the same — take and hold terrain.

Tanks are here to stay: What the Army’s future armored fleet will look like