Tires, Tanks, and Treads, Oh my!

When researching tank drive systems, what could be a better source of information than a REAL TANK?

It has been several years since the team has had a tank drive drivetrain and unfortunately we chose to disassemble it in order to reuse the parts. So as one of our summer projects, we have been hard at work on developing our own tank drive system. It’s quite a bit more complicated than just bolting on a couple of motors and wheels.  While the internet has pages and pages of information on this kind of drivetrain, it can be difficult to really wrap your mind around what is being described in diagrams and photos. So we took advantage of some of the resources available to us at ERDC and took a close look at some of the static displays on the grounds. 

Pictured here with team members Shelby and Trevor is the M48 Patton Tank. Designed to replace the M46 and M47 tanks used extensively in the Korean war, the M48 was heavily employed during the Vietnam war seeing more than 600 deployments. Major modifications from previous models include redesigned hull, improved suspension, and the addition of a hemispherical turret. 

Pictured above is the Terra Star. While not a tank, we opted to study it for it’s unique approach and experimental design. Designed during the Vietnam war to have the efficiency of wheeled vehicles while also being able to traverse swampy marshland, it was able to travel over difficult terrain such as stream banks because of its unique major/minor method of locomotion illustrated in the chart below.

The Airoll (XM769) Amphibious Logistical Carrier not only has a very long name, but it also features a unique combination of pneumatic tires and a rigid track. It was successful both in water and on land during testing as a result of this combination. Despite its heavy weight of 12,400 pounds, it is able to keep ground contact pressure to only 1.5 PSI as the weight is distributed over the tires.

We consider ourselves quite fortunate to have the privilege of calling such a fine and historically rich engineering center our home. We would like to thank the people at ERDC for providing us this opportunity and supplying us with the means to put some of what we learned on this outing into action in our future builds. 

If you or anyone you know would be interested in learning more about Engineering and the STEM field as a whole, please feel free to contact us at

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