The US Future Combat System – A new philosophy on MBT’s

Hello readers, my name is Shadyrush, your average Dutch university student who lucks out by having access to a database filled with awesome reports and documents. While I have been lurking around TAP for a while, this will be the first article I’ll be writing for you guys. And hopefully, many more will come.

This article will be about (you guessed it) the Future Combat System or FCS for short. The FCS project is currently suspended, but after looking into it, it can be said that the US MBT philosophy was shifting to the one Germany had in the 1950’s. To explain what I mean by this, I’ll take you into the project itself.

The FCS was the U.S. army’s multiyear, multibillion-dollar program that had the intention of replacing current systems like the M1 Abrams tank and the M2 Bradley AFV. The project was brought to life by observing the role of armored vehicles in the more recent conflicts. Notable events were the destruction of over 200 Russian tanks by Chechen Guerillas and the slow mobilization of the US M1 Abrams in the Kosovo conflict.

Because of these examples the U.S. Army demanded a lighter MBT with superior mobility while still retaining adequate armor. “Power is increasingly defined not by mass or size but by mobility and swiftness,” then-presidential candidate George W. Bush said at the Citadel military academy in September 1999.

The project was formally launched in 2003 and with it development started on a universal chassis for Infantry Carrier vehicles, Command vehicles, a Mounted Combat System, A Recon vehicle, non LoS mortars, artillery and a medevac vehicle. In this aspect it could be considered the US Armata.

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While I could write an essay about all of these vehicles, today I’ll focus on the Mounted Combat System.

The MCS is the “MBT” of the bunch, while not nearly as armored or heavy as current MBT’s it does have some redeeming qualities. While the exact weight is unknown, it should be about 24 to 26 tons. The light weight is a gift for the mobility and as you’d expect, this baby can shift.(in theory anyway) There are no exact figures concerning mobility, but my sources state 60 to 70 km/h. Fortunately the MCS has more qualities, it was planned to pack a whopping 120mm smoothbore. This gun was allegedly able to penetrate the Russian T-90 at ranges up to 8 km.

So, it scores good in the mobility and firepower categories, there must be a downside now right?

Well, yes and no. While the armor isn’t very good for a MBT it isn’t nearly as bad as you’d expect for 26 tons.

The MCS can provide all-around protection against mines, which is a big plus for the crews. It’s also able to stop even the newest types of RPG’s and it can stop quick-firing cannon shells up to a caliber of 30 mm. In fact, The front protection is better than the sides of the Abrams. The tank won’t bounce the Russian big boy 125 mm, but it’ll do fine against aged tanks and most standard AT equipment.

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But what advantages does such a light MBT have? Well, these tanks were planned to be transported to the battlefield using C-130 transports. The weight allowed one tank per plane. The plan was to pick them up, fly them to a dirt strip near the battlefield and let them drive to the fight. This proved to be highly impractical, it would take all C-130’s in service to lift a single armored brigade. Why? Because parts had to be removed and flown to the battle separately on the heavier variants like the MCS.


In 2009 this project was indefinitely suspended. While the U.S. saw potential in these vehicles, they proved too impractical and expensive for mobilization. I type mobilization and not production, because the production would have been quite cheap. The reason it  was so expensive was because one transport plane was needed for every produced tank. So, if the U.S. decided not to produce extra transport planes, they would be left with the problems they wanted to fight.

So, in the end the project failed and only one prototype lived to see testing. While I doubt the possibility of this project seeing any further development in real life, it might be interesting enough to be put in games like WoT 2.0 in the future. Only time will tell…

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Thanks for reading,



31 thoughts on “The US Future Combat System – A new philosophy on MBT’s

    1. It\’s not just you.

      They are universally speaking the worst concepts.

      1. I\’d wager their primary purpose is keeping them from economically nuking the owners budget via purchasing, and especially the operating costs of running multiple dedicated heavy* armoured platforms.
        Of course, this means they end up running \’only\’ one rather expensive vehicle that is still somewhat on the heavy side when it has to get moving, but, you don\’t have to blow your money on stuff that\’ll only really start being properly useful shortly before people decide living off of mushrooms in metropolitan subways may not be a bad idea after all.

        *Let\’s be honest, folks, not exactly a Renault Clio, those things, even at their lightest.

    2. It\’s the same with most Universal do-it-all combat systems *cough*F-35*cough*

  1. that was a really interesting article to read and honestly im surprised tanks havent moved in that direction yet my initial guess for the t14 armata were that it would be the equivalent to the yamato of tanks as in it was easily the best ever built for its type but it came as that type was on its last legs. although if what ive read in some other articles is true then the germans and the french are working on a competitor to the t14 so maybe the hard as nails mbts will survive for another few decades but in the future i definitely think weapons systems like this will become very popular maybe not totally removing the full mbts but maybe as sort of a light mbt.

    although as soviettenkdestroyer pointed out universal tank typically fail at being universal but the t14 might be the first to actually succeed with that design philosophy.

    1. The Brits failed at doing this with the prototype Centurion/Conqueror tanks and the Americans seemed like it tried in the 50\’s and 60\’s and that failed also. I wonder what is the future of the Armata Platform will be.

    2. Everyone tried making light MBTs with light armor.

      Then everyone realized that modern assymetrical warfare requires good armor protection all around. It\’s not about stopping a tank 3km away anymore, it\’s about being able to withstand IEDs and rocket fire from any angle.

      That\’s why the T-14 is a size and weight increase compared to the T-series tanks, and why the entire \”light MBT\” concept was dropped after the 2nd Gulf War.

      In that regard, the T-14 may only be successful because, ironically, it just became like current Western tanks.
      IE: not very universal, just a big mound of armor with a gun plopped on top.

      1. Not exactly. Many countries like Vietnam or Thailand still need a relatively light MBT because the terrain there is very difficult for a heavy MBT to maneuver. Same for Russia, and I checked that T-90 and T-14 weighes almost the same. Therefore, I don\’t know where the weight increase is.

        1. They weigh the same…without all the added armor kit when a tank goes into battle.
          Which is a good 5-10 tons more.

          Vietnam and Thailand also need a tank that\’s cheap. Which is why the older generation tanks are still perfect.
          But if put in a situation where they needed to fight an assymetrical war, with insurgents in all directions, they would do the same as everyone else, and add armor.
          Fast and light is irrelevant in a city, and even more irrelevant is the tank explodes.

          1. You sure? Could you please post the weight for T-14 and T-90 with and without add-on armor?

            Vietnam and Thailand still needs light MBTs even if they are fighting an assymetrical war. The terrain there doesn\’t support heavy MBTs like Abrams. They would get stuck every time they go out into the Jungle, which makes them useless, just like Tiger IIs in WWII.

            1. Can I post the weight for armor addons for a tank that\’s still extremely classified, and barely out of prototype stage? No, no one outside the Kremlin can do that. But much the same that an Abrams weighs 60-62 tons bare, and closer to 70 when fully uparmored, the T-14 is made to have armor tacked on.

              Also, the weight of a vehicle is secondary to the total track surface. A rather small tank weighing in at 40 tons with thin tracks might sink in the mud where a larger tank weighing more might just keep going. And that\’s without even going into the matter of newer tanks having much larger engines capable of pulling themselves out of mudder more easily than tanks from the 60\’s.

              If given 10 times the budget, Vietnam and Thailand would buy the bigger, more modern tanks.

              after all, if weight was the only real issue, they would just have bought surplus M41 Bulldogs with modernizations, just like Brazil. That thing is almost 20 tons lighter than what they currently have.

              1. But weight still is a issue. Thailand is relatively rich compared to Vietnam and maintains a good relationship with the U.S., and yet it still buys the relatively light Ukrainian T-84 instead of the heavy Leopards or Abrams, not mentioning those Stingrays in Royal Thai Army Service.

        2. Vietnam couldn\’t afford any good MBT anyway, they didn\’t even bother upgrading the stuffs they got from China and Soviets half a century ago. I don\’t know if US Arms embargo stopped Vietnam from getting new tanks, since they could just ask the Soviets for some. I mean, even North Koreans have better tanks than Vietnam lol.

          Thailand case was different, they actually went ahead and bought the newly made Stingray for a specific purpose.

  2. Nice read. Btw what is it you study to have access to such information? 🙂

    1. I have a universal database at my university. Any student can get into this databse regardless of his study.

  3. i believe like 3/4 of those 200 if not more weren\’t tanks but significantly less protected armoured vehicles… i don\’t see a logic to suggest to use poor armoured tanks instead of actual tanks when it was proven that the modern tanks like say abrams m1 are very hard to destroy completely (albeit a few of them were badly damaged)

    1. It does make sense, if you take the future into consideration. The M1 Abrams already weighs 70 tons. It has amazing armor right now but there is no guarantee that it\’ll be able to stop all AT fire in 10 years. And the moment it won\’t be good enough anymore, they\’ll have to produce an even heavier tank, and these will bring a lot of logistical problems. So, if you knew that your heaviest tank wouldn\’t be able to withstand all enemy fire in 10 years, would you produce an even heavier one? or would you develop a tank fast and maneuverable enough to avoid being hit at all?

  4. No one disputes that M1 is hard to destroy, BUT USA have another problem with it: how to move it from point A to point B… It weights 62+ tones, and that limits mean of transport.. C5 Galaxy in only mean of quick (air) transport, but it can carry only 2 of them in a flight… Problem with C5 transport is that this plane need quite a looooooong airstrip which is not usually available in God-Forsaken-End-Of-The-World countries (regions) where those tanks need to be used….

  5. TBH, the MCS sounds exactly like the M8 light tank.

    And from what I can tell, this FCS project might have influenced the M1A3 project as it become lighter than the current M1A2.

    1. The FCS project was heavily influenced by light tank projects from before 2003. They wanted to use their weight as efficient as possible, so one of the first steps was observing light tank projects.

      I don\’t know if there\’s any connection between the M1A3 project and FCS project. They might follow the same philosophy.

  6. I like how OP doesnt consider AW being even a game – straight to WoT 2 😀
    Taking all things into consideration – yep.

  7. In a modern Tank v Tank war, the tank who sees the enemy first always wins. Germany\’s defense firm that makes the Leopard 2 merged with a French defense firm that helped make the Leclerc and have been given funding to start the \”Leopard 3\”. I think by 2030 when the tank is expected to start production the armor will be reduced to stopping anti tank missles, RPGs, heavy infantry weapons, and IEDs. While the gun, FCS, and ammunition will be heavily upgraded (Germany can\’t use DU rounds so they will have to use the 140 mm gun). We will problably also see new technologies that can detect tanks further. The T14 armata is a joke, by 2030 it will be obselote against the Wests new tanks. Russia will need to heavily upgrade it and put the 152mm gun on or build a new tank.

    1. Don\’t see how it can be a joke. We know very little of it. A new 152mm gun is already planned for the tank soon. Plus, the tank weighs quite low which allows for further upgrades if needed.

  8. Nice read, and thx for sharing and taking your time with it. I don\’t mind seeing more of stuff like this.

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