The Pocket Tank was born between two difficulties. Power armor, mecha, cyborgs, and combat robots are expensive and take a lot of training and maintenance to keep going, followed by the fact that the traditional tank has been escorted off of the stage by societal demands and becoming vulnerable to those same weapons. There was a niche in paramilitary and security force rosters for a tough and well armed combatant that was not brutally expensive, and wasn't required to perform at military campaign levels. The answer to this conundrum was the pocket tank.
The pocket tank is a simple design. The turret is the 'main body' of the vehicle and houses the lone operator, the main gun, and the power and communications systems. The chassis of the tank is closer to the electric tread assembly of industrial construction vehicles than a caterpillar tank tread, and is made of readily available and easy to service components. The turret has an offset weapon mount that can equip a heavy infantry support weapon including autocannons or vehicle mounted support weapon, and a single basic infantry weapon. This open configuration allows for a wide degree of flexibility in arming said pocket tanks.
In vehicle design, there is a sort of holy trinity: armor, firepower, and speed. The pocket tank brings heavy firepower relative to its size, and is in infantry scale combat, remarkably tough. The ungainly shape and drive system leave it on the slow side, but this is considered acceptable. Pocket Tanks can keep pace with infantry, but are not much faster. Likewise, despite having caterpillar treads, they are not exceptional at handling rough terrain. Again, this is countered by role, pocket tanks are expected to be used in urban and industrial settings where tarmac is normal and rough terrain is not.
The pocket tank is far from being a cutting edge design, and there were few difficulties in its design. It is rather a cutting corners design, and is optimized more for low cost, ease of repair, and limited training requirements. The technology required is primitive enough that pocket tanks can be found almost anywhere, and in a variety of configurations. Production is quick and easy, the vehicles have no arcanotech, and aside from the electronics, sights, and such, most of the control layouts and equipment would be comparable to World War era tanks. Just smaller.
The Pocket Tank has performed in a mediocre fashion. It exists in a strange position, being high end heavy on the infantry scale, but small and very light on the vehicle side. Against basic infantry, militias, crowd and riot control, and other occupation duties it performs well. They are small, non-threatening, and their ability to load out a large variety of equipment and weaponry serves them well. In more militant engagements, against foes who know hoe to fight against power armor and mecha, the pocket tank fairs poorly. Their armor is either light military or heavy commercial, both of which are vulnerable to armor defeating munitions and energy weapons. Well armed foes can quickly dispatch unsupported pocket tanks.
The usage of the pocket tank is simple, use them in groups, in rows, let them present a faceless immovable barrier to protestors, against basic terrorists, and gangs. If the enemy starts deploying military weaponry, it is time to escalate our response and hopefully the armor and not inconsiderable firepower of the pocket tanks, along with proper support, should see them through until reinforcements arrive.
Gung ho hotrodders and cowboys get blown up. They get their treads shot out from under them. They get set on fire. They get killed inside their tanks because they were stupid, and the infantry that were protecting them, and relying on them, just got screwed by that stupidity.
Pocket Tank Variants
Noise Tank - the Noise Tank is a rolling public address system, and replaces the weapon mounts with a LRAD, long range acoustic device. At low power it is a PA, at medium, a rock concert speaker system, at high power crowd dispersal and area denial. While unarmed, any infantry or vehicle crews who don't have some means of sound insulation will not be able to stay in the noise tanks area of attack.
Rescue Crawler - the guns are replaced with a large manipulator arm, allowing the pocket tank to pick its way through wreckage and debris, or to act as a repair and reload vehicle for other pocket tanks. The small size of these vehicles makes it relatively easy to remove battery packs, drive motors, and the rest.
Big-Wheel - the Big wheel replaces the treads with large inflated wheels for better terrain handling ability. This variant is faster, and can roll over rougher terrain, it also has a higher center of gravity and can easily tip over if the pilot is too aggressive in their driving.
The general reputation of the pocket tank is low.
The most common nicknames for pocket tanks involve trash cans, dumpsters, and burn barrels. Any hit strong enough to penetrate the armor is almost certainly going to kill the pilot, and if it doesnt immediately kill them, the resulting smoke and fire are more than likely going to finish the job. Outside of the tank, it is not liked much more. Infantry don't particularly like protecting the prone to toppling and ungainly vehicles, they also don't like being reliant on them for their support and protection.
But, that being said, these pocket tanks are often the only heavy support the infantry has, and their foes will either have superior numbers, where the tank fairs well, or they will have better gear like power armor and cyborgs, and as poor as the tanks do, they do better than just men armed with rifles and armor vests.
The Pocket Tank is a glass cannon threat against a group of PCs. Its ability to pack heavy infantry weapons gives it the ability to maim or kill most PCs, even if they are in power armor, if they are dumb or assume the tank to be a victim. They can be used as heavies for a corporate security force to repel aggro shadowrunners, basically. They are also large and heavy enough in the man vs man scale that high power PCs can go all in and not pull special attacks when fighting against them.
Riot and crowd control is a common theme in dystopian sci-fi, and the non-military build of the pocket tank lends them to this sort of action. Against crowds of civilians, armed and otherwise, the pocket tank is a rolling fortress that projects authoritarian force, and can be used along with armored personnel carriers and other armored vehicles as a deterrent. The PCs, in the crown scenario, simply dont have the firepower to oppose the pocket tanks and have to come up with plans, tricks, and traps to neutralize said vehicles.
In a DFE, a group of pocket tanks can be as effective as power armor troopers, and given their lesser mobility, a better defensive asset. Pocket tanks cant run away, they aren't that fast. The PCs can be in a position to protect these vehicle, or be rescued by them if the bug hunt gets too intense.