Are tanks still relevant on the Modern Battlefield?

I think Karl was close when he mentioned drones.

Look at the Turkish TB2 and new US Switchblade drones and the effect they are having. The switchblade is only $6000 US. Not used (yet) but Boston Dynamics and their Atlas drone - wild stuff…

IMEO I think most military vehicles will be drone / remote piloted in the not so distance future.
Its more cost effective way to fight. Tanks will be faster w/ lighter armor because there ins no crew to protect. And they will have to be avoid similar weapons.
As most be people know the UDF is being fed intelligence by the West / NATO. But alot of that data is multi spectrum filtered thru AI that forecast and feeds the UDF drones places to look. I just read an online post about it.

Side note but probable item on the military planners desk, the decreasing birth rates in many countries.
Less men to fight and less ppl. to pay taxes to build weapons.

We live in interesting times, but you know what they say about that…

1 Like

I suspect crewed tanks will rapidly become as obsolete as battleships did in WW2 and for the same reason – vulnerability to sustained aerial attack, let alone individuals with shoulder mounted projectiles. Tanks have always been land ships. Add to that the limitations of practical rapid deployment of a 70–odd ton chunk of metal that can’t cope with rivers, mountainous regions, urban warfare, and which needs massive logistics to be delivered to anywhere it can cope with. And then there’s the fuel, breakdowns & maintenance facilities, replacement unit costs…

Maybe there’s a difference depending what tanks are used for. In offensive mode they can be devastating at speed and in numbers, but usually futile unless closely followed up with occupying infantry. I also think Karl is on the right track, defending against an armoured onslaught will require a range of different sized drones in swarms delivering relatively small but effective munitions, and on-the-ground NLAWS etc. to deal with survivors. In other words a more sophisticated, comprehensive and co-ordinated version of Ukraines’s present defence.

Tanks being used in defensive mode is a more complicated proposition depending on many variables such as available time to deploy in protected positions, the nature of the assaulting attack, terrain, etc. etc. But they will be equally vulnerable to aerial swarm attacks, so numerous that no anti-air artillery would be able to knock them all down in time - the V1 strategy refined. After what we’ve seen recently, recruiting tank crews is likely to become as difficult as submarine crews unless you treble the pay-scales.

Whether offensive or defensive, these battles will involve increasingly minimal human exposure (particularly if they replace tank crews with remote-control) but there’s still the problem of following up with overwhelming occupying troops. I don’t know if enough research is going into protecting them well enough against opposing drone swarms – Iron-Man suits maybe, or full robot armies coming soon to a conflict near you. :tumbler_glass:


We use to think AI offensive weapons were in the distant future.

I think we are closer than we think…
However it may not look like the movie Character “Terminator”.
Think about a drone with the ability to identify a tank. You just give it a preprogramed area to search and let it go. Give it 2 hellfire missiles and we are there.

There are those dog looking robots that the border control is thinking about using. We are close. Robots are not afraid to die. They can lay in wait for extended periods of time. It will be as bad as we can imagine eventually because if we can imagine it, we can make it.


Skynet is among us since a few years ago. I see the future war as an army of bots and some kind of ‘SOF’ infantry. Not a large force of SOF, but small units.

Until the infantry fall foul of machineguns and conditions are ripe to reinvent the tank.

And the archer reinvents the longbow & the bodkin armour piercing arrow & Crecy & Agincourt are refought.
The cycles keep turning, probably very few new weapon concepts, just variations on a theme.

Tank infantry co-ordination is a dance that both partners must practice to perfect.


1 Like

The tank will always be relevant on the modern battlefield. Nothing will make it obsolete. The basic fighting unit is the infantryman. The basic protective unit is body armor, ranging all the way up to the tank. The basic offensive unit is a bullet, ranging all the way up to an ATGM. Offensive or defensive, one is always made to stop the other. If the enemy has machine guns, you’re gonna wish you were in a tank. If the enemy has ATGMs, you’re gonna wish you were a grunt. No matter what you’re in it seems like every son of a bitch out there is shooting at YOU. That’s why they call it a war.


I can’t wait for my thesis project to be a tank-identification neural net

They have done work already on identifying people from their mannerisms. Satalites do not see faces from their perspectives. To identify people and track them, other parameters must be used. Similar work has been done with identifying things like tanks and missile launchers. I do not know if it has reached the "turn it loose " stage yet but if it hasn’t, it will not be long.

Not even using the latest AI technology, all kinds of civilian applications use imaginary and taught AI to identify all kinds of things. For example road mile marker signs with a x,y,z values and sign post information (route and measure), storm damage assessments after hurricane or flooding etc.

Wouldn’t take much to id a tank or other vehicles, if using other sensors it can tell you the type.


AI identification for human faces is already here and working degree. That Iranian nuclear scientist was killed and his wife in car beside him was unharmed.

NYTimes - Iran-nuclear-fakhrizadeh-assassination-Israel

Also of interest.


Everyone is going to have killer drones.

Time to practice some funny walks:

or maybe some other peculiarities

1 Like

Look at the Marine ONTOS. six recoiless rifles. Small light ,and fast . Modern NO! effective Yes.

Quick to deploy but very vulnerable to direct small arms fire.

Let’s take an extreme futuristic Sci-Fi example from the Sci-Fi modelers’ perspective…

In Star Wars, tanks are still relevant as shown with the AT-ATs and AT-STs. Despite the Rebels having
“Anti-tank lasers” at the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, the Rebels lacked the blaster power to penetrate the thick skin of the AT-ATs. Sure, X-Wing Proton Torpedoes (Star Trek has Photon Torpedoes) could penetrate AT-ATs, but the Rebels didn’t have any starfighters at Hoth that they used, only Snowspeeders, because the few precious starfighters were being evacuated to escort the starships and space transports into Imperial space and to run the Imperial Star Destroyer blockcade. Those lumbering AT-ATs were on the Rebels before they knew it…supported by Snowtroopers and AT-STs. Thermite grenades and orbital bombardments won’t work on Imperial AT-ATs and this was echoed in the prequels and sequels. So “tanks” are still relevant. If worse comes to worse, Imperial Star Destroyers can reduce a planet to slag with their turbolasers and the Death Star can destroy an entire planet with a single powerful laser blast. Star Wars has a limit as to how powerful the handheld blaster and lasers actually are. And there are Concussion Missiles/torpedoes too aboard a few fighters such as the Millennium Falcon. This is the mind of George Lucas.

In Star Trek, the tank is gone…replaced by the Phasers that can displace rock and cause geological movement (as explained in the Star Trek Technical Manuals). The handheld Phasers are so powerful that no one wore body armor because Phasers can vaporize anyone at the highest settings. Photon Torpedoes and Phasers aboard a Starship can instantly track and destroy anything. If worse comes to worse, a Starship can destroy a continent with its Phasers and torpedoes or Photon Torpedo the sun/star and make it go supernova. The handheld Star Trek Phaser is so powerful…just point and shoot and the problem will go away, and we’re not talking about Quantum Torpedoes or Nanites or AI hacking yet. Star Trek’s Federation scoffs at primitive lasers (where Star Wars technology is) because as Picard once remarked aboard the Enterprise-D, “No, they can drain their lasers dry and not hurt the Enterprise.” So I am assuming chemical lasers or solid-state lasers. Star Trek has Shuttles and fighters but hardly any ground vehicles and body armor whatsoever—not even helmets.

The fictional Technical Manual books on these two Sci-Fi universes are quite interesting.

Recall, most of Humanity wants a utpoian Star Trek Universe, not “constant war Star Wars Universe,” but in truth if you watch the Star Trek, First Contact movie, Humanity was in a Post-Apocalyptic world before Zefram Cochrane built the first Warp Core to achieve Warp 1 and meet the Vulcan spaceship orbiting Earth where the Starship and shuttles have replaced the tank in Humanity. That meeting with an alien species, the Vulcans, skipped Humanity’s Star Wars Universe and set Humanity on a course of exploration to meet alien civilizations and distant worlds instead of having Humanity battling itself in “Good vs. Evil” like in Star Wars because the Vulcans helped Humans rebuild Earth and our civilization. This was the mind of Gene Roddenberry (deceased).

I am not going to discuss the part of UFOs being tracked on actual US Navy F-18 video cameras… :grin:

1 Like

Except, battleships weren’t completely obsolete after WWII. They proved extremely effective at shore bombardment; so much so that they came back for Korea, Viet Nam and then Desert Storm. The development of rocket and missile technology and the inability to crew and maintain 1930’s vessels were what killed the battleship. Tanks will evolve, but I don’t think they’ll ever vanish.

I think the biggest lesson learned from the Russian fiasco is that only well-honed professional combined arms forces are successful on a peer-to-peer modern battlefield. Your battlegroup must be balanced between armor, infantry, artillery, air-defense, aviation, and electronic warfare. That battle group must train together extensively. Air superiority is a requirement for success.

What’s the difference between a heavy vs medium tank when drones are available?

They were used against a third rate opponent who really didn’t have much defensive against them.

To a certain extent none but I think the days of the 70+ ton heavy tank are moving closer to the end but the role of the tank is still needed. I think that can happen to a certain degree with a medium tank vs getting rid of all tanks which a number of counties have been moving towards.

I agree that something like a tank is needed, but when it comes to a drone there is no difference between the two.
Now with hand held weapons so powerful, one can agree that a 70 ton tank is needed to defeat their shaped charge weapons.
People done seem to realize here that a Russian tank is no where’s as heavily armored as a western tank and does not use compartmentized ammo storage.