Israel has unveiled a new street-fighting tank designed for urban warfare.
The Carmel is a manned but mostly automated vehicle, with Artificial Intelligence controlling many of the tank’s functions. It is the Israel Defense Forces’s response to the lessons of the 2014 Gaza War, where heavy Israeli armored vehicles had difficulty traversing narrow city streets.
The Carmel is a thirty-five ton tracked vehicle with a crew of two. Photos in Israeli media suggest a vehicle that is narrower than a tank, but with a tank-like weapons turret.
“It is almost completely autonomous and highly invisible to enemy radar,” according to the Jerusalem Post. “The platform has breakthrough technologies, including modular transparent armor, next-generation cooperative active protection, an IED alert and neutralization system and a hybrid engine. It is also fitted with tactical drones which can help with surveillance and reconnaissance as well as attack capabilities. The Carmel will also include an entirely new generation of active protection and will allow the two-man crew to operate in closed hatches while still seeing the entire battlefield.”
The IDF recently displayed three prototypes during a demonstration in Israel. The Elbit Systems version equips the crew with the IronVision helmet-mounted display, based on helmets developed for F-35 pilots. Rafael’s design features a panoramic console display for 360-degree situational awareness. The Israel Aerospace Industries vehicle uses an Xbox-like joystick.
The IDF emphasized that the Carmel is not a tank. “It’s something totally different than a tank,” said Brigadier General Guy Hasson, chief of the Israeli Armored Corps. “It’s a platform that is totally new.”
What’s interesting is how the Carmel uses—and doesn’t use—AI. Meir Shabtai, an Israel Aerospace Industries robotics manager, told the Post that the Carmel is the “the next generation of combat vehicles” that can autonomously maneuver as well as detect and engage targets at long range.
“The amount of information that a human can understand is limited, so the platform provides the operator only what he needs,” Shabtai said. The vehicle can take the decision to fire at targets and “allow the operator to deal with what he needs to focus on.”
But as Israel’s Ynet News pointed out, the IDF is not choosing to develop a fully robotic tank. “Israel's plans for its semi-automated armored vehicles shows it intends to keep soldiers at the controls, albeit entirely insulated from the outside thanks to artificial intelligence and smart screens fed by external cameras and sensors,” Ynet noted. IDF officials say that it may be thity years before Israel can deploy a fleet of fully robotic armored vehicles.
But AI or not, the Carmel illustrates the future of armored vehicles. Growing urban sprawl and the rise of “megacities” are making urban combat the norm in warfare. Big, heavy tanks like the M-1 Abrams and T-72 are awkward platforms moving through narrow streets.
The trend is toward developing smaller vehicles armed not with a single big cannon designed to take out tanks, but lighter-caliber weapons. Russia’s Terminator 2 is a T-72 armed with 30-millimeter cannon, grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles. It’s meant to be a combat support tank that assists infantry and regular tanks with firepower, especially in urban areas.
Image: YouTube Screenshot