The Israeli government has awarded defence contractor IAI the contract to develop their next generation of armoured combat vehicle. The Carmel will be a two-man vehicle that is intended to integrate autonomous combat systems with a minimal crew for the first time, therefore accruing the best of both worlds.
The idea was driven by recognition in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) that current tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles are too cumbersome when operating in confined areas such as urban landscapes. What the IDF wants is a new operator interface that gives crew maximum overview of the situation whilst either being protected by being fully enclosed in the vehicle, or else being able to control the vehicle from outside of it.
Combining this ability with autonomous control and threat recognition means that the Carmel should provide the IDF with a lethal new AFV for fighting in high threat areas whilst maximizing the crew’s protection as well as minimizing their numbers.
In simple terms, the crew can see everything they want to see from inside the vehicle without having to stick their heads out. That includes stuff like video feed or other information from other sources such as drones overhead.
And if things look really hairy, they can get out, take cover somewhere and send the Carmel off to identify and kill the enemy on its own.
Development of the various systems has been ongoing for five years, but things really started proceeding in 2019 when all three of Israel’s big defence contractors – IAI, Elbit and Rafael – were issued a stock IDF M113 vehicle for modification to test their proposed concepts.
In October IAI was declared the winner of this selection process. Their vehicle demonstrated itself in a live fire demonstration that highlighted both the enhanced crew control features but also the demonstrator’s ability to act against perceived threats on its own without the crew being in the vehicle.
Now IAI will build this next generation combat vehicle. Should they prove successful, there are plenty of opportunities for them. IAI have already stated that there is huge international interest in the Carmel and in the technology being developed for it.
Already the newest version of the Israeli Merkava main battle tank, the Mk.IV Barak, is having rival Elbit’s ‘Iron View’ system integrated into it. Based on technology developed for the F-35, the Iron View was one of key components utilized in Elbit’s entry for the Carmel competition.
This essentially allows the crew to “see” through the tank whilst they are sitting in it, enjoying the full protection offered by the vehicle but not suffering the traditional tankers problem of impeded awareness by doing so.
IAI’s defeat of this Elbit system, which is already on the point of entering into service, gives an indication how good their technology is for the Carmel, and that will certainly cause additional interest.
I expect their rivals to not be sitting still. Though the Carmel will be built by IAI, the technology that their rivals have developed will no doubt be offered to other prospective buyers.
With mutterings that the American M1 is looking to get a technology, perhaps we will see the United States integrating some of these ideas into their next iteration of battle tank?