July 22, 2024

Israel has released information and video about the new “Barak” (Lightning) tank, and it’s an interesting piece of equipment.

Israel unveiled the “Barak” tank as its newest artificial intelligence (AI)-powered military advancement, promising a “new era” in combat capabilities.

“The Barak tank is very innovative – it takes our maneuvering capabilities to another level, and it is a clear expression of our technological capabilities,” Israeli Minister of Defense (IMOD) Yoav Gallant said of the tank, whose name translates to “lightning.”

“I would like to express my appreciation to the engineers of the Tank and APC Administration, the Israeli Ground Forces and all those involved in the professional process,” he added.

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While this doesn’t really seem like artificial intelligence as such, what the Barak tank does have is a very sophisticated 360-degree situational awareness capability and tactical computer support, which is significant for a tank; one of the big weaknesses, traditionally, of armor being blind spots. An enemy infantryman coming up behind you with a Molotov cocktail to drop on your engine decking can ruin a tank crew’s whole day.

The fifth-generation Barak tank introduces a 360-degree awareness capability, giving a total vision of the battlefield. In a video that features animated segments to demonstrate the tank’s potential, an IDF operator is able to identify targets both in front and behind his tank thanks to a specially designed helmet that helps him filter battlefield data.

The tank also seamlessly communicates the information to another nearby tank, which can immediately respond to the data and identify the target instead.

The role of tanks in modern warfare has been the subject of much discussion over the last few years. Tanks like the Barak and our own M1A2 are primarily built to fight other tanks and to provide support for mounted and dismounted infantry. But recent conflicts in places like Iraq revealed something anyone who rode an M4 Sherman through any number of French and German towns in 1944 and 1945 could have told us, and that is that tanks have unique difficulties in urban environments. Armor is most effective when it can keep the enemy at a distance; being in places with lots of wrecked buildings and rubble leaves the enemy with too many opportunities to close the distance and use such things as improvised explosives or just simple bottles full of gasoline.

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The Barak tank seems, at least in part, to be built with this eventuality in mind.

What this initial release doesn’t include is a description of the Barak’s armament, which is odd as a tank is basically a big device meant to keep the gunner alive and to haul the main gun around; but it’s likely that the Barak is equipped with the same NATO-standard 120mm smoothbore MG253 gun as the Merkava, and there is what looks to be a machine gun mounted at the tank commander’s station. Presumably, there is a coaxial machine gun alongside the main gun as well.

Israel is fielding this high-tech tank, by the way, at roughly the same cost as the older Merkava; here in what is supposedly the most powerful country on the planet, we can’t even get a pay raise for our services’ enlisted troops. Our own government, however, has no problem spending on the military in other areas.

Priorities, I suppose.

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