With drones swarming above the globe's battlefields, you might think the days of traditional artillery are at an end. Drones can carry out precision strikes and provide zero hostages if shot down or captured, it's true. A drone can't match the sheer firepower that a tank offers, however. And if that tank also happens to be invisible to infrared and radar, all the better.
It's thinking like this that has lead Poland to develop a tank with the ability to hide in plain sight while still doling out the damage to the opposition: the PL-01. Armed with a 120mm main gun, two secondary turrets, a coaxial 7.62 machine gun and a remote-controlled weapons station on its roof, this tank is capable of striking targets anywhere on the battlefield.
The PL-01 also features a thermal-and-radar camouflage system that keeps its three-person crew alive as they both fire and re-position themselves. Made up of hexagonal plates, the infrared camouflage system takes heat readings from the tank's surroundings and then actively matches the PL-01's heat signature to map the terrain. To infrared targeting sensors like those mounted on drones and missiles, the tank simply seems to vanish. What's more: the system can also be tailored to your surroundings, tiger striping the tank's heat signature in the forest or making this hulking mass of destruction appear to be just another average car on the road.
Not all of the tank's tech is ready to go just yet, with its first completely functional prototype planned for completion in 2016. Once that vehicle has been tested, the PL-01 will start rolling off the assembly line, theoretically by the decade's end. With a modular weapons system and an entirely unmanned turret, no two of these future tanks will have to look entirely alike — especially where radar and infrared are concerned.