Imperial College London

How can you stop a 70 tonne tank?



Imperial College London alumni have developed a non-lethal method for stopping tanks.

Tanks are a major threat on the battlefield that need to be immobilised, and in recent years large civilian vehicles have been weaponised in tragic terror attacks.

But stopping vehicles is difficult without large, heavy blockades, or anti-tank mines in the case of tanks. Blockades can be impractical and there has been a recent push by countries to move away from the deployment of mines as they can often linger well after wars finish.

Synbiosys – a startup company founded by Imperial alumni Jose Videira and Gareth Tear – has developed a potential solution as part of an innovation project called Stop the Tank, funded by the MoD’s Defence and Security Accelerator known as DASA.

The device is first triggered by the tank, a bit like a landmine is triggered, at which point it goes through a sequence that entangles a net into the tracks, which rapidly clogs the track system.

The solution sounds fairly simple on the surface, but “testing and developing the idea was not easy – you can’t exactly head to Avis and rent a tank.” Said José, CEO of Synbiosys.

To get around the lack of tanks, the team developed a model with the exact dimensions and mechanical forces, at one tenth of the scale; something that has never been done as far as they can tell.

“Much as engineers use wind tunnels for testing the aerodynamics of aeroplane or F1 car parts, the model tank allowed us to rapidly prove our concept, and undergo iterative testing of designs, but with academic rigour.” Said Jose.

The net system has been highly effective at this scale. Admittedly this is an early demonstration on a model, but because the tank is a faithfully scaled-down recreation, the speeds and forces that the real-world system will need can readily be calculated.

The next step for Synbiosys is to test the system on a real tank, an opportunity that DASA is opening to applications as part of its Stop the Tank Phase II competition. Should Synbiosys be successful they’ll get this opportunity.

The longer term idea is that this anti-tank lasso can effectively be deployed as a non-lethal drop-in replacement for mines, using the same triggering mechanism.

The team are also exploring developing the system for use against wheeled vehicles which have been used in recent years by terrorists.


Max Swinscow-Hall

Max Swinscow-Hall
Institute for Security Science & Technology


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