Tanks The Evolution Of Tank Technology Essay — страница 2

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Wehrmacht?s premier tank at the outset of World War II, the Panzer IV, had a cross-country range of 80 miles. The tank of today?s German Army, the Leopard II, one of the best tanks in the world, has a range of 310 miles. Such range means that tank units are less restricted in their operating radius and less tied down to fixed fueling bases. Advances in communication have also allowed for a much larger range. Lethality, the ability to ?kill? or disable other tanks, has also improved by orders of magnitude. Tank cannon have increased in caliber and throw weight from 75mm cannon in the Panzer IV of WWII to 120MM in the Leopard II, U.S. M1A2, and other front line tanks of today. Effective range is further increased with the advent of new optical systems. They can detect enemies as

well as allies at greater range, enabling better targeting. Infrared systems enable the detection of heat signatures, and laser targeting gives soldiers the ability to self-aim and release laser-guided explosives and munitions. The laser is aligned with the fire-control computer, so the soldier uses his internal targeting system to aim at targets. After the target is illuminated with the laser, its guided munitions are released and follow the laser beam right to the target. This technology allows for extremely accurate targeting at longer ranges. Survivability is another area in which huge leaps have been made. Armor became progressively heavier and more sophisticated over the years. Today, most modern tanks use depleted uranium, an extremely dense metal, as primary armor. It is

almost impervious to all but the heaviest standard shells. Additionally, Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) is used as an add-on to the primary armor. The tank?s primary armor is covered with an additional layer of tiles of ERA, which is an explosive sandwiched between steel plates. The explosive in the armor is initiated due to the impact of a warhead upon it, causing it to explode outward, opposing the warhead that has just hit it; the result is minimal damage to the tank. ERA is a very recent development that saw its first significant use during Operation Desert Storm. ERA is being used on an ever-increasing scale since then to provide protection against both kinetic and chemical warheads.. Since ERA is tiled on to the (generally) flat surfaces of a tank it does not provide

optimal protection. There are areas of the tank the ERA does not cover; many times these areas include the hull sides and rear, as well as the rear of the turret. These spaces are now the tank?s Achilles Heel; the enemy can disable a tank with a hit in these areas. ?During the first month of the Chechnya fight in December 1994, 62 Russian tanks were destroyed, all but one of them by hits in areas not protected by reactive armor.? (Biass, 56) As proved in that instance, it is hard, but not impossible to get around ERA. Another invention that deploys aspects of the ERA technology is that of the Russian radar systems ?Drozd? and ?Arena? which use radar sensors to detect incoming missiles, and send out grenades to engage such threats. Such devices are very expensive and not easy to

come by, but soon these devices will become the norm, and defense technology will develop even more. Currently, the US is researching the development of ?fusing sensors? which will be able to provide a stand-off capability for projectiles and missiles allowing these to attack targets protected by ERA or other protection systems. All modern day tanks are also equipped with laser-warning receivers (LWR), providing an additional degree of survivability. These give visual or acoustic warnings that incoming laser energy has been detected, basically telling the tank that they have been targeted. More sophisticated LWRs can give an indication of the nature of the threat, and can also initiate smoke grenades. Operating range is also affected by the ability to communicate. Communication

with air support and other tanks through the use of satellites and other new communications devices, is now much more reliable than it was even a decade ago. This enhanced communication allows for single tanks to find out where they are, where the other tanks in their unit are, and where the enemy is, as well as the structure of the land. This, in turn, enables them to maneuver with confidence over a greater range. At the same time, brigade, group and corps commanders can use enhanced communications technology, including both cellular and satellite technology, to have a better picture of the battlefield and thereby be better positioned for tactical and strategic decision-making involving tank companies and battalions. Tanks have evolved in numerous ways since their introduction