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Chief Wants Tanks with Active Protection, New Armor, Driverless Option

The U.S. Army's chief of staff said he wants future versions of its main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, and other ground combat vehicles to feature active protection systems, as-yet-undeveloped lighter armor and a driverless option.

Gen. Mark Milley outline such technologies when speaking Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He was responding to a question about whether he was concerned that Russia plans to field a new tank, the T-14 Armata, in 2020.

Russia's T-14 Armata and its T-15 heavy infantry carrier are equipped with active protection systems designed to counter anti-tank guided missiles. The U.S. Army hasn't yet equipped its combat vehicle fleets with such technology, but plans to test the Israeli APS system Trophy on Abrams and other platforms this fall.

Milley didn't comment on those evaluation efforts. But he did talk about the need to adopt APS and other technologies to ensure its mechanized infantry formations outfitted with Abrams, M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicles and M1126 Stryker armored fighting vehicles remain relevant for decades to come.

"There's active protection systems," he said. "There's reduced crews with automated turrets. But the real sort of Holy Grail of technologies that I'm trying to find on this thing is material -- is the armor itself."

Milley added, "If we can discover a material -- and I've got a lot of research and development going into it -- if we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough."

The chief noted that armed forces have been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for centuries. "There are advances in non-powered kinetic such as railguns, lasers, etc.," he said.

"The last piece is robotics," he added. "Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need to make sure it's dual use so the commander on the battle[field] ... has the option for it to be manned or unmanned -- they can flip and switch and it can be a robot. So those are some of the technologies we want to see in ground vehicles, not just tanks."

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