One of the draws of science fiction is that one day, it will become science fact. While we civilians can hope for material replicators and instantaneous transporters, a la Star Trek, the military-industrial complex has its sights pinned on other things. Laser weapons are a popular one, but there's a new proposal from the US Army that's even more extreme – reconfigurable tank armor.
According to the Army's own proposal, it's asking defense contractors to study armor panels that can move up to ten horizontal inches in just five seconds (which sounds like a long time in the heat of combat). The panels themselves would be a square-foot in size, and capable of standing up to a missile or rocket impact. But as fanciful as the project sounds, the reality is that it could be a necessary evolution in tank development.
The movable armor is in response to conventional tank armor systems that "are essentially static and unable to respond to unanticipated changes in threats deployed against the system; essentially the army has limited potential to increase the capabilities of current static armor recipes in order to balance size, weight, and performance requirements," the Army's proposal reads. In other words, simply adding more armor, which has been the go-to philosophy for tank development since World War I, is no longer feasible.
And neither, according to the proposal, is an Active Protection System that could detonate a missile before it reaches the tank. As The National Interest suggests, if an APS intercepts a missile, it could harm infantrymen outside the tank. Building movable armor could mean similar levels of protection for troops both inside and outside the tank, and we'd have to imagine it'd be easier to develop than a full-blown APS system.