China Develops Smart Tank with Drone Integration, Omnidirectional Protection, and Phased Array Radar

According to a report by the South China Morning Post on May 28, recent images circulating on Chinese social media indicate significant progress in China’s development of a futuristic smart main battle tank capable of comprehensive defense against missile and drone attacks.

The report suggests that this new type of tank appears highly advanced, featuring a two-person crew and likely equipped with a complete active protection system. This system is expected to offer more protection than traditional tanks and enhance offensive capabilities.

The integrated defense system of the new tank can preemptively detect and intercept incoming missiles, significantly reducing the risk of destruction by conventional anti-tank missiles and high-explosive anti-tank rounds.

Additionally, its integrated attack system—incorporating drones and weapon stations—suggests a shift from traditional tank-to-tank combat to a more comprehensive combat approach.

Traditional tanks are struggling to survive in the Ukrainian war. On modern battlefields, a low-cost drone can destroy a heavily armored tank worth millions of dollars.

China’s next-generation tank project indicates that technologies like drones can also be used for tank protection, ensuring that the “king of land warfare” continues to play an important role in future armed conflicts.

Currently, main battle tanks in use worldwide are third-generation tanks. However, given the changing nature of warfare and the increased threats from drones and missiles, many countries are developing fourth-generation tanks.

Notably, the Russian T-14 Armata tank, unveiled in 2015, is considered one of the world’s first fourth-generation tanks, equipped with an advanced active protection system.

Military commentator Bai Mengchen stated in an interview with the China Central Television military channel in January that active protection technology is considered a fundamental feature of the next-generation main battle tanks.

A Chinese military blogger revealed that the new Chinese tank features an unmanned turret, a 105mm rifled gun, and a stealth barrel, with potential future upgrades to an electrothermal-chemical gun.

Furthermore, the blogger mentioned that the new tank is expected to be equipped with anti-aircraft weapon stations to enhance defense against low-speed missiles and drones. It might also be equipped with active electronic warfare systems and X-band radar. The former handles fire control and target tracking, while the X-band radar is used to disrupt drone flights.

The report also notes that the new tank has multi-platform autonomous collaboration capabilities, significantly enhancing its offensive potential. It can coordinate with drones and unmanned vehicles to form coordinated strikes in beyond-visual-range air-to-ground engagements.

In terms of mobility, the tank retains a six-pair track system and may be equipped with lidar for autonomous driving. Its exterior appears unpainted, with a gray upper body and a yellow lower body.

In 2019, a promotional video marking the 60th anniversary of the Northern Vehicle Research Institute in China showcased the concept of a two-person crew tank, indicating that this technology is already mature in China.

At a forum in Beijing in 2022, experts revealed that China’s next-generation tank would signify a major leap in defense capabilities. Through active interference and interception technology, the overall defense performance of the tank is enhanced, with battlefield survivability increased by 2.7 times, experts said.

China’s fourth-generation main battle tank appears to be moving away from traditional armor-piercing ammunition in favor of an information technology-supported, system-oriented combat approach, featuring active interference, active interception, and multi-dimensional protection measures.

Analysts also note that China’s fourth-generation main battle tank incorporates an entirely new chassis, 360° situational awareness cameras, omnidirectional protection, hybrid power, intelligent control, and phased array radar.

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