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Sapient Tank

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What happens when you mix Tank Goodness with Artificial Intelligence? An awesome soldier with firepower, mobility, and armor, that's what. Occupying the hostile grey land between Attack Drone and Androids (or Gynoids), they tend to fight hard for truth, justice, and the meat-bag way. They are often portrayed as protagonists, but they are just as likely to be enemies of humanity in a Robot War.

If one of these existed, it could have several advantages over a manned tank. Space for crew members could be eliminated to make the tank smaller in volume, reducing the overall weight and target profile without sacrificing armor protection. It would use an auto loader, giving it a high rate of fire. The AI could process information coming from multiple optics and sensors at once, integrate intel coming from scout drones or mission control, and eliminate delays or misunderstandings caused by crew members having to communicate with each other. It would be less vulnerable to chemical, biological, and radiation hazards, not to mention requiring no life support if it were deployed on a planet with extreme temperatures or no breathable atmosphere. Depending on how human-like its mind was, it could be immune to fear, pain, psychological trauma, boredom, fatigue, or the need to sleep. Actually, all of this sounds pretty scary and you could imagine people’s reluctance to give that amount of power to a machine.


For additional flavor some such tanks are Haunted Technology possessed by demon, ghosts, or sprits instead of sprites, desktops, or gears. Or in some cases, a person is conjoined with the tank as the power source or CPU.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Ghost in the Shell. Tachikoma automated tankettes and Uchikomas.
  • Kino encounters one in a dream sequence. It asks her whether she has seen another tank with a specific number insisting that he has to destroy "him". After Kino denies seeing "him", the tank floats away and on its back is the very number of the wanted tank.
  • A Magitek version is present in Slayers REVOLUTION. the "magic tanks" are apparently an offshoot of the Zanaffar Armor artifact created from animals, and thus do not need crew.
  • Bogey in The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye is a robotic brain installed in a desert-trekking tank.
  • Sir Cyrano de Bergerac in Sisters of Wellber is a talking, sentient tank that is probably powered by some kind of magic.
  • Those Who Hunt Elves had a tank that was haunted by the spirit of a cat as the team pet after their Summon Everyman Hero plot ran out of gas and needed something supernatural to keep the tank running.
  • Burn Up! Excess had a two-parter episode where the Warrior Team had to escort a military project that was, you guessed it, a super-advanced Hover Tank outfitted with an AI (codenamed Henry). It even fell in love with Rio and tried its hardest to protect her.

     Comic Books  

  • Back in the propaganda days of DC comics, there were a group of World War 2 veterans who traveled around in a tank haunted by the spirit of a famous general (J.E.B. Stuart, who was the light tank's namesake) who gave them cryptic advice. Their vehicle was called The Haunted Tank.
    • The tank has made appearances in the modern day, with the former Confederate general haunting tanks driven by his descendants. He's currently haunting an M1 Abrams with a Black Great-great-etc grandson.


  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, there are Skynet's independent armor formations in the future. They can be seen hunting human soldiers in the beginning of the movie.
  • The Decepticon Brawl in the first Transformers who turned into a tank.
  • The Separatist tanks from Star Wars are either robots or crewed by them. Basically, everything that looks more or less like a vehicle is crewed, and stuff that looks like giant mechanical spiders or big roller-wheel thingies are AI-controlled big honking droids.
  • The Tiger tank in White Tiger is heavily implied to be this, given that even the Germans don't know who's crewing it, or for that matter, what it is in the first place.


  • Bolo: Massive AI tank-like war machines. They have varying levels of sophistication but most are depicted as capable of thought that many would say makes them "alive". This includes an appreciation for poetry, history, valuing life, and even showing mercy to an enemy.
  • The Chronicles Of Old Guy: Similar to Bolos, Cybertanks are massive multi-thousand ton supertanks. They are self-aware, can control an army of drones and remotes, and have hobbies like glacier surfing, being librarians, or breeding koi fish. They have formed a society post-humanity.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Marvin provokes a massive but simple-minded robot-tank that's standing on a bridge connecting two high office towers into showing off it's destructive arsenal, and the drone promptly shoots the bridge supports, resulting in it falling down and getting smashed.
  • In Charles Stross' novel Glasshouse, the protagonist recalls being converted into one of these during the wars he fought.
  • The Death Lands book "Pandora's Redoubt" features an absurdly persistent laser-slinging robotic tank called a "Ranger" hounding the heroes (because it was programmed to patrol the perimeter of the redoubt that the Companions have just left and sees them as a threat to destroy). It survives getting hit with multiple missiles, having a building dropped on it, being hit with multi-ton boulders and it takes literally blowing up a bridge out from under it (and dropping it into a canyon) to kill it off. It also annihilates the Villain Of The Week's stronghold and army while it's at it.
  • The hover tanks used by Hammer's Slammers have advanced AI but they don't seem to be sentient. Though they are pretty good at shooting down incoming artillery fire, or satellite.

     Live Action TV  

  • One That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch features a giant robotic scorpion created by Doctor Death (which, it turns out, he sincerely intended for peaceful purposes).

     Tabletop Games  

  • Steve Jackson Games
    • GURPS Reign of Steel, which was based on the Terminator films. The Zonemind Artificial Intelligences have a number of weapons available to them, such as the XAU-03 "Juggernaut" (a robot battle tank armed with a particle beam cannon). It has a neural net computer brain.
    • OGRE is all about giant cybertanks fighting against a mass of more conventional combat vehicles.
  • Paranoia has warbots and combots, all with their own bot brains.
  • Shadowrun has ground attack drones of various sorts, some of which are capable of attacking on their own.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Adeptus Mechanicus insist that all vehicles have a "machine spirit" that must be appeased for it to operate, but the truest example of this trope is the Space Marines' Land Raider, an Awesome Personnel Carrier with an advanced cogitator that can drive the vehicle if the living crew is stunned or operate an additional weapon. The Land Raider Rynn's Might even activated itself after being blown clear of the Crimson Fists' fortress-monastery during the invasion of their homeworld, then freed itself from wreckage and went on to attack the nearest Ork warband. When its rampage was stopped after a lucky shot blew off a track, the tank opened all its doors so the greenskins would rush in to try and loot it, then sealed the hatches behind them and purposefully overloaded its power core, killing an Ork Warboss and his bodyguard with the resulting toxic fumes and radiation. Chaos Space Marines also have unusually smart Land Raiders, though in their case there's overlap with Demonic Possession.
  • Aftermath! Book 3 The World of the Aftermath. One of the examples of robot-controlled devices is a Cybernetic Tank, an advanced version of which has Artificial Intelligence.
  • The fifth adventure in the Pathfinder Adventure Path "Reign Of Winter" pits the Party against a number of Mark V tanks controlled by the pickled brains of Russian generals.
  • In the Dungeon Crawl Classics setting of Umerica (postapocalytpic North America) one of the more dangerous enemies are Think Tanks. Human brains wired into an atomic powered battletank, bristling with advanced weaponry.


     Video Games  

  • Tiny Tank. The cute if deadly tank that you control.
  • Seek And Destroy. Every tank in the game, including the main protagonist as you play as a tank.
  • Star Warrior. One of the opponents you can run into is the Robotank, a smaller, Artificial Intelligence-controlled version of the Heavy Tank.
  • Team Fortress 2, Specifically Mann Vs. Machine mode. There are giant robots as well as actual tanks, all of which have ridiculous amounts of health. The actual Tank doesn't have any weapons, serving as a Beef Gate while your team has to simultaneously fight robots.
  • Most of the major bosses in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker are AI weapons with no pilot. Two of them, the Pupa and the Chrysalis would qualify as tanks, albeit one is closer to a Hover Tank and the other a Base on Wheels.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. In the expansions the Mastermind tank is this, just that it controls enemy units. It is mentioned that it is a brain on wheels.
    • Also the Allied Robot Tanks to a lesser degree.
  • Tread Marks is about a bunch of sapient tanks running off to the woods to race each other and blow each other to bits for fun.
  • In Battle Zone 1998, the Furies are living biometal tanks designed by the Cthonian precursors. The tanks are quite psychotic, and after the Soviets produce a number and use them in combat, the tanks go berserk and start slaughtering everything in their path.
  • Blitztank in Akatsuki Blitzkampf and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a tank whose AI slowly gains sentience and independent thought. It's actually a human consciousness inside the machine.
  • In Overwatch, Bastion's Ultimate ability is to turn into a miniature version of this for 8 seconds. It's roughly the size of a heavily armed go-kart and fires shells that do enough damage to One-Hit Kill most Support or Damage characters.
  • Super Mario Odyssey features the Sherm enemies. Sherm being a cutesy abbreviation for "Sherman Tank" it's quite obvious what they are. They're mostly prominent in the sub-areas of New Donk City, and like all enemies in this game, Mario can possess them and fire explosive (cannon, not koopa) shells long distances.
  • Mistank from Yo-Kai Watch is a mix of a sapient old-style carriage and a tank. Even his name (both American and Japanese) shows it.

  • Hue Are You Red is able to transform into a tank at will. He normally does so when traveling long distances.

     Web Original  

  • Red vs. Blue has Sheila, a very nice and sweet sentient AI who just happens to be installed in a badass tank, and considers herself just as "human" as the actual human soldiers on the teams. One of the soldiers becomes especially fond of her and ends up being the one who rides around in her the most.
  • The SCP Foundation has a couple, though three come to mind:
    • SCP-802, an apparently haunted, decrepit Renault Char B1 that patrols a small region of France and stalks and harasses anyone it comes across, to the point of killing them if not left alone.
    • SCP-516, a T-55 tank that prefers to remain nonviolent until either forced to defend itself against hostile forces (and even then by specifically choosing its shots to avoid injuring innocent lives) or when encountering disgraced former members of its home country's military. It even has shown hostility towards the Foundation when the scientists try to conduct morally questionable exercises against unarmed D-class test subjects.
    • SCP-3390 is another French tank, this one a particularly patriotic Char 2C that does not appreciate the French being referred to Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys. After a rampage through the facility it was contained in, it falls into the facility's sub-basement, where the head staff have it sealed (along with the poor SCP personnel who were trapped down there with it) by disabling the only elevator capable of lifting the tank to the surface. Suffice to say, it is not happy with this turn of events, and resorts to stalking and killing the personnel trapped down there with it, and is implied to have tortured one survivor in an attempt to coerce him into overriding the elevator.
  • There is a significant community of Russian YouTubers whose videos are World of Tanks inspired cartoons featuring sentient versions of various WWII and Cold War vehicles. Human crews are notably absent, and tanks have their own personalities.
    • HomeAnimations is the largest such YouTuber, with his main series featuring the German Reich in their war against the Soviet Union, with the Germans receiving assistance from the megalomaniacal Leviathan.
    • Similar to Home Animations, Gerand is another large YouTuber whose main series involves the USSR fighting Germany and their demonic allies.
    • Ranzar's Tanktoons feature many tank personalities, from the pleasant but simple-minded Maus, to the professional but eternally put-upon Hellcat, to the KV-2 who's just happy to be there.
  • A particularly somber series of memes features World War 2 tanks sitting rusted where they were abandoned wondering if their crews are returning or if the cities they were assigned to protect are still safe.

     Western Animation  
  • Transformers has a handful of them. The first ones were introduced in 1985 with Warpath note  not and Blitzwing, who transform into traditional tanks (although Blitzwing can also become a jet), and Omega Supreme (pictured in his IDW incarnation at top), who is not only a tank, but a rocket base as well. Megatron has been a tank in many incarnations starting with Generation 2 in 1993, due to the problems with him being a pistol. note 
    • Tankor, the dim-witted tank Vehicon from Beast Machines, at least until Rhinox's personality resurfaces again.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has the Haunted Tank (see Comics) appear prominently in one episode's Cold Open.

Alternative Title(s): Thinking Tank