Despite that silly scene in the recent A-Team movie, parachuting with a tank presents some significant challenges. But the U.S. military hopes to come up with a new armored vehicle that can be dropped from a plane alongside airborne infantry units.
The U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence is collaborating with the 18th Airborne Corps and Rand to brainstorm a light tank that could be dropped from the sky during an invasion. The “mobile protected firepower for light airborne infantry” concept is still in the early development stages, according to officials speaking at the AUSA’s winter meeting in February.
The U.S. military first dropped a tank from a plane during the invasion of Panama in 1989. That vehicle, the M551 Sheridan, was a light tank. The problem with the previous skydiving vehicles was that although they were light enough to be air dropped, the aluminum armor could be penetrated by heavy machine-gun fire. The Sheridan was retired in 1996. (The way the vehicles are dropped, by the way, is off the back of a low-flying, rear-loading plane using a shock-absorbing pallet.)
The challenge now will be to balance speed, weight, aerodynamics, and armor thickness, so that the vehicle can be dropped from a plane, maneuver quickly on the ground, but also provide enough protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and enemy fire.
Rand is expected to publish a report on the initial research in September.
Source: Popular Science