The U.S. Army’s Upgraded Abrams Tank Boasts Several Surprises
It’s what’s inside that’s important
General Dynamics Land Systems will start to deliver the first production M-1A2 SEP V3 Abrams to the U.S. Army starting in 2017. Out of a total of nine prototype tanks, the company has delivered seven of the prototypes for field-testing at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
“Testing commenced in Jan[uary] 2015 and ends in Mar[ch] 2020,” Donald Kotchman, General Dynamics Land Systems’ vice president for tracked combat vehicles, said in a statement to The National Interest. “Prototypes are currently in reliability tests and performing well.”
According to Kotchman, the Army will start to field the new Abrams model starting in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020.
However, unlike most Pentagon acquisitions programs, the upgraded Abrams will not enter “low rate initial production” or “full-rate production.” Instead, the Army is developing the SEP V3 as a so-called “engineering change proposal,” or ECP.
GDLS is on contract to build an initial six upgraded tanks. The Army hopes to eventually re-manufacture its entire, roughly thousand-strong M-1A2 SEP fleet into the new configuration. “We have a contract for six pilot vehicles and are working follow-on orders,” Kotchman said. “The Army currently plans to put the V3 capability into all of its M-1A2SEP vehicles.”
Though the M-1A2 SEP V3 was developed as an ECP, the upgrade adds significant new capabilities to the Abrams. GDLS was originally awarded the contract for the Abrams ECP1a Program in September 2012. The program was meant to improve the Abrams’ size, weight and power-cooling capacity — as the iconic tank was running out of room to grow.
“The ECP1a program is characterized as the ‘power package,’ to include improvements to various systems to aid the soldier in future fights,” Kotchman said.
According to General Dynamics, some of the major improvements within the ECP1a program include increased power generation and distribution capacity. “Soldiers have a requirement for additional electrical power in order to use advanced technologies and improved capability in the future,” Kotchman said.
The new Abrams variant includes improved connectivity — allowing for better communications with advanced network capabilities. Tank crews are afforded vastly improved displays and man-machine interfaces that should enhance their situational awareness.
The SEP V3 also boasts improved survivability and lethality compared to older Abrams models. Kotchman said that the vehicle has advanced abilities to defeat improvised explosive devices plus an upgraded armor package. The addition of a new ammunition data link supports use of advanced new ammunition types that are either already fielded or will be fielded in the near future.
Meanwhile, life for maintenance crews gets easier with the addition of a new vehicle health-management system that supports off-vehicle reporting of maintenance status. New line-replaceable modules help to improve diagnostics and repair, which should greatly boost vehicle availability due to decreased downtime.
The addition of a new under-armor auxiliary power unit helps to reduce fuel consumption and should lessen the wear and tear on the tank’s Honeywell AGT1500C gas turbine engine.
Kotchman deferred comment about whether the Army needs to develop its main battle tank specifically in order to defeat the new Russian T-14 Armata, as the Germans intend to do. Berlin is clearly worried about the Armata and is hoping to develop an entirely new main battle tank to counter it.
However, Kotchman did say that the M-1A2 SEP V3 is just one of the upgrades in the pipeline for the Abrams. “The Army is considering additional engineering changes that would add capability to the Abrams tank.”
This article originally appeared at The National Interest.