Could this become the army’s new light tank?
The winner of the Mobile Protected Firepower Program could provide the US military with a light armored vehicle and airmobile.
The United States Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program, which aims to deploy a light tank, is about to enter a limited user evaluation phase, by Jane’s. The tests would involve the contribution of army tankers to improve the design of the two prototype vehicles.
Protected mobile firepower
The U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program fills a capability gap for U.S. Army infantry brigade combat teams. The IBCTs “do not have an assigned combat vehicle capable of providing a mobile, protected, direct, offensive fire capability … against hardened positions, dismounted personnel and light armored vehicles”, an article published by the army. Explain.
Notably, the Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, essentially a light tank, will not go to the army’s heavy armor brigades, which already have an effective armor platform and organic armor support infrastructure. Instead, the MPF will equip light infantry and airborne units within the army that do not have an armored tracked vehicle.
Ideally, the MPF vehicle will bridge the gap between adequate armor protection and the weight to be airmobile. It will be far from easy. The last airborne armored tracked vehicle in service with the military was the problematic M551 Sheridan. Other light tanks like the M41 Walker Bulldog were found to be too heavy for air mobility.
The vehicle General Dynamics built for MPF has the advantage of leveraging GD’s decades-long vast experience in tank building (GD also manufactures the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank). Additionally, electronics and fire controls should be similar to the larger M1, simplifying training.
Their offering incorporates some components of the company’s Ajax vehicle supplied to the British Army. This vehicle was particularly problematic – several British oil tankers required medical assistance after excessive noise and vibration caused hearing loss and minor injuries. It is not known if this will be a problem for the DG’s MPF as well.
Although GD’s prototype sports a 105mm main gun (most guns in NATO main battle tanks are 120mm in diameter), the vehicle is far from small, and the weights of earlier prototypes ranged from less than thirty to fifty tonnes, which raises questions about vehicle mobility via air transport. and on earth under his own power.
On the other hand, BAE’s vehicle is considerably smaller and lighter, a selling point the company emphasized. In addition, unlike many armored vehicles, the engine of their prototype is easily removable for repairs or maintenance in the field.
BAE builds on an older design in its vehicle portfolio, the M8 armored gun system, a failed attempt to replace the Sheridan as the army’s airmobile light tank. The modernized design improves underbelly explosion protection and updated electronics and engine, but the vehicle’s relatively modest engine power could be a limiting factor despite its low base weight.
Both vehicles have strengths and weaknesses, neither has a clear advantage over the other. However, after the soldiers’ assessments, one of the two should come out on top.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with The National Interest. He lives in Berlin and covers the intersection of conflict, security and technology, focusing on US foreign policy, European security and German society.