The IDF has presented its newest APC family, on Sunday, showcasing three new prototypes for the Carmel advanced armored fighting vehicle (AFV), which officers say will revolutionize the battlefield.
Launched three years ago as a multi-year plan, the Carmel is expected to be at the forefront of the military’s new combat concept, which is based on autonomous and automatic maneuvering capabilities, artificial intelligence, hybrid propulsion and more.
Designed to play a lead role on the future battlefield, the combat vehicle takes artificial intelligence capabilities that enable full situational awareness and fast responses to enemy threats while drastically reducing the workload of the crew.
With numerous sensors and cameras, the Carmel allows the crew to order autonomous actions such as searching for several enemy targets simultaneously and then prioritizing the targets and off-road driving.
Drawing lessons from 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, where IDF soldiers fought in narrow streets and alleys in the Gaza Strip, the 35-ton, tracked AFV is designed to be simple to operate, relatively inexpensive, agile and lethal with firepower designed for close and urban combat.
Operated by a two-man crew, it is almost completely autonomous and highly invisible to enemy radar. 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.
But the Carmel is not a tank which is not very maneuverable in urban environments, Hasson said.
“It’s something totally different than a tank: It’s a platform that is totally new,” he told reporters at a live demonstration in northern Israel.
“Although the nature of war will not change, the soldier on the ground will face a great deal of uncertainty and will have to change,” Hasson said.
While MAFAT expects the development and demonstration testing of the Carmel to extend over the coming decade or more, the platform prototypes shown to reporters on Sunday included one from Rafael, one from IAI and one from Elbit – Israel’s three major defense companies.
Meir Shabtai, general manager of robotics and autonomous systems at IAI, told The Jerusalem Post that the Carmel is “the next generation of combat vehicles” that can maneuver by itself and can detect and engage targets at long distances.
“The amount of information that a human can understand is limited, so the platform provides the operator only what he needs,” he said, explaining that the vehicle can take the decision to fire at targets and “allow the operator to deal with what he needs to focus on.”
According to the Defense Ministry, each company was asked to develop their platform from a technology-based concept that would transform existing and future platforms into an advanced vehicle with a cockpit – much like that of a fighter jet – where most of the activities are carried out autonomously (travel, threat detection, target acquisition, as well as defensive and offensive maneuvers).
The prototype developed by Elbit Systems has the crew wearing the IronVision Helmet Mounted Display, which is based on technology developed for the F-35 stealth fighter jet. With three large screens surrounding the soldier, wearing the helmet allows him to see outside the vehicle and operate the AFV under closed hatches, further enhancing crew survivability.
Rafael, meanwhile, also demonstrated a vehicle with a closed hatch and a breakthrough panoramic design, giving the crew 360-degree situational awareness and a true and up-to-date snapshot of what is going on outside on the battlefield. In addition to the large panoramic screen, the crew operates a personal touchscreen with interfacing ability, dividing up the work of autonomous mission planning, driving and simultaneous operation of all vehicle weapon systems, all of which is based on combat artificial intelligence capabilities and capable of detecting and neutralizing a large number of targets simultaneously.
IAI presented a platform which combines a panoramic display, individual control screens and a control stick similar to the Xbox gaming console’s joystick. The autonomous capabilities in IAI’s combat vehicle are operated by a central, autonomous system that integrates the various components of the platform and helps the human operator in processing information and focusing on critical threats in order to make effective decisions.
“We are preparing for a revolutionary perception of land maneuvering,” said Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Rotem, head of research and development at MAFAT, adding that many armies around the world, including the US Army, are interested in the platform and will be coming to see demonstrations of it over the course of the coming days.