Next Army Combat Vehicle will use lighter armor, more active protection and lasers

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) needs to be smarter and leaner than the Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle— and completely reimagined, said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, who commands the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, Georgia.

The Army plans to have a blueprint for its successor to the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle by 2022.

While the shape of the vehicle remains undecided, Wesley said it’s clear it needs new ways of defending itself, including active protection systems and new weapons — all with the goal of lightening the load and increasing maneuverability.

The Army’s current tanks weigh nearly 80 tons, Wesley said, up from roughly 65 when fielding began.

“We cannot afford to take another plate of steel and put it on the front,” he said. “We cannot afford to increase the weight of the Abrams, because it’s no longer mobile. You can’t get it across key roads and bridges; you can’t truck with it. Just adding passive armor is no longer sufficient.”

Active protection systems, which the Army is working to add in modular form to its existing vehicles, would allow the NGCV to operate lighter by creating a force field of sorts to defend against incoming fire before it makes contact.

“Active protection … allows you to lower the weight and increase the protection of the vehicle by destroying rounds before they can penetrate the vehicle,” Wesley said.

Another weight-saving measure that may appear on the NGCV? Laser weapons.