Update on Making a Real Bolo SuperTank

Previously this site had speculated on using current and in development technology to create a Bolo supertank from science fiction. From Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends : Caterpillar engineers and computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University have teamed up to develop an autonomous 700 ton mining truck. The super-large mining truck was a baseline from which modifications were made as seen below where the original article is repeated. Discover News has more details on Caterpillar’s plans.

Japan-based Komatsu already has already delivered autonomous mining trucks to its customers, but these are smaller than the Caterpillar ones. Both companies are transforming their trucks into ‘robots’ for three reasons. Improvements in safety, efficiency and productivity will reduce costs and increase availability.

“The Caterpillar trucks will be equipped with numerous high-tech gadgets and software to keep them on the road. GPS receivers would continuously monitor the location and direction of the trucks. Laser range finders would sweep the road in front of the trucks to identify large objects. Video equipment would then determine if the object is a hazard, such as a rock, or not. All of the information would then be run through a computer program that would tell the robotic driver to avoid the obstacle or not and by how much. The software to run the trucks will be adapted from CMU’s part in the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Urban Challenge.”

Fully automated mining trucks promise to reduce maintenance costs while increasing productivity. While being careful not to say what Caterpillar’s performance expectations will be, Stentz offered a ‘very rough calculation’ that by running at peak capacity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the trucks could be up to 100 percent more productive.

Matching science fiction super-tanks with real world 700 ton tank with 36,000 HP fission reactor, railguns, lasers, super armor, supercomputer, AI, missiles and more.

What are Bolo Tanks ?
Bolo’s are fictional artificially intelligent super-heavy tanks. They were described in science fiction books by Keith Laumer.

Online books have the specifications for the different bolo models.

Amazon.com Widgets

Bolo Mark X      350 tons     Laser cannon, railguns, missiles, preloaded computer  
battle plans
Bolo Mark XII    500 tons     Intercontinental missiles, surface to space missiles
Bolo Mark XIII   565 tons     Fission powered engine, laser cannon
Bolo Mark XIV    728-900tons  Fusion powered engine, hellbore weapon (half 
megaton/sec plasma gun = 2.1 petajoules/sec)

Adapting Existing Equipment

We can start by adapting a factory for the biggest mining trucks or the large military hovercrafts.

The Caterpillar 797B is an ultra class mining truck manufactured by Caterpillar Inc. The 797B is the largest mechanical dump truck in the world.

They use 50 gallons of diesel per hour and have 13ft tires. Each tire costs $40,000.
Weight 310 tons empty, 690 tons with full load
3500-3750 HP engines
Height: 25 ft (7.6 m)
Length: 47 ft (14.5 m)
Body width: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Fuel capacity: 1,800 US gallons (6,800 L)
Cost: About US$5 million

A Russian Bora class guided missile hovercraft weighs about 1050 tons

Length: 654 ft (19.7 m)
Beam: 17 ft (5.4 m)
Draught: 3.8 ft 8 in (1.4 m)
Speed: 12 knots (14 mph/22 km/h) cruise

55 knots (63 mph/102 km/h) maximum
Range: 2,500 nmi (4,600 km) at 12 knots
800 nmi (1,500 km) at 55 knots

• Twin M10-D1 type gas turbine engines rated at 40,000 horsepower (30,000 kW) bound to two primary three-blade propellers
• Twin M511A reduction gear diesel engines rated at 20,000 horsepower (15,000 kW) bound to two primary three-blade propellers
• Twin M52OM3 auxiliary diesel engines driving superchargers rated at 6,800 horsepower (5,100 kW) used to inflate the skirts

• 2 × Quadruple MT-206ME launchers for 3M-80E “Moskit” marine cruise missiles (or various others)
• 1 × 9K33M “Osa-MA” type surface-to-air missile anti-aircraft defense suite
• 1 × AK-176M automatic 76.2 mm cannon or 1 × AK-100 automatic 100 mm cannon
• 2 × AK-630 30 mm anti-aircraft Gatling cannons
• 16 × 9K38 Igla man-portable shoulder mounted surface-to-air missile launcher sets
• 2 × 14.5 mm naval machine gun mounts
• 1 × DP-64 anti-saboteur grenade launcher

Arming a big mining truck like the guided missile hovercraft is already getting pretty close to a pretty good Bolo tank.

Next technology is coming that matches up with the more futuristic aspects of Bolos.

Fission power
As is frequently covered at this site Hyperion Power Generation should have 27 MW of electricity factory produced nuclear reactor ready in 2013. One MW is equal to 1341 horsepower. So 27 MW is 36,200 HP. This is 24 times more power than the 1500 HP engine of an M1 tank and is ten times the power of the engines of the big mining trucks. It can run 5 years between reloading the nuclear fuel. The waste that is removed at the end of five years is the size of a softball.

The reactor will have no moving parts and is only about a 1.5 meter on a side cube. It should weigh ten tons or less.

A large conventional diesel engine can generate 89,000 HP and weighs 2000 tons

Railguns and lasers
Megawatt class solid state lasers should be ready in 2012. Each megawatt laser would probably need up to 5 megawatts of the nuclear power plant power to fire because of inefficiency converting electrical to laser energy. This efficiency can be improved with more refined technology such as optical fiber lasers.

Railguns should be ready for test deployment for navy ships in 2012 and an integrated railgun in 2016-2018.

A railgun firing. Current test gun can achieve 32 megajoules of power.

At full capability, the rail gun will be able to fire a a 40-pound projectile more than 200 nautical miles at a muzzle velocity of mach seven and impacting its target at mach five. In contrast, the current Navy gun, MK 45 five-inch gun, has a range of nearly 13 miles. The high velocity projectile will destroy its targets due to its kinetic energy rather than with conventional explosives. The desired railgun would have 64 megajoules to fire. In our proposed real Bolo tank, ultracapacitors would store 3+ seconds of reactor energy for each railgun firing.

Railguns can fire smaller projectiles into space (or make bigger and more powerful railguns). So hitting objects in orbit is possible from a supertank.

Robotic driving and armor

Actual vehicle being developed is the CMU crusher (self driving military vehicle)

The alternative to the “super alloy” of the Bolo would be better ceramic armor or the new durable liquid metal (twice as strong as titanium)

Current progress to autonomous robots is substantially because of better 3d LADAR

More on the DARPA robotic driving systems

There is rapid cost to reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness of graphene and carbon nanotubes for very strong materials by themselves or as additives in to plastics and metals.

Computer brain
Around 2015, a supercomputer using about 20 million embedded microprocessors could deliver 200 petaflops of performance. It would cost about $75 million, and use up to 4 megawatts of power. The supertank could use one that was one tenth as powerful. 400KW of power for a 20 petaflop supercomputer.

AI is getting better and running on a very power computer would make the AI more effective.

The Hyperion nuclear reactor would provide enough power for engine, supercomputer, railgun and lasers. The vehicle would also be big enough to carry missiles and big gatling guns.

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