Situational awareness has long been crucial for tank commanders. Knowing what’s going on a round you in the smoke and noise of battle, and knowing where your enemy is, gives commanders an edge over their adversaries in situations where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
Commanding a tank is difficult at the best of times; noise, dirt, and vibration are ever present. Even with the plethora of periscopes and cameras that adorn modern main battle tanks to aid with vision, there has been no substitute since the beginning of tank warfare for the mark one eyeball. This means fighting your tank with your head out of the turret, and explains why casualties amongst vehicle commanders have been historically high.
Which is why the latest announcement from Israel may be good news for those who ply their trade in armoured fighting vehicles. They have just unveiled their new tank, the Barak, described as a “fifth generation Merkava”. Amongst numerous high-tech improvements, it introduces a “heads-up” helmet display for vehicle commanders.
The tank commander is to be provided with a helmet similar to a fighter jet pilot’s helmet which gives him a full view of their surroundings and displays relevant information about ongoing fighting.
The helmet, dubbed IronVision, “generates an image that enables the crew to ‘see through’ the vehicle’s armour” and will help the soldiers “overcome inherent visibility limitations, while improving mission efficiency and safety.”
This could be a game changer in terms of commander survivability. Is it too much to ask that it be incorporated into Britain’s new Challenger 3 tank which is currently in development?
Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk
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