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The M1 Abrams Tank Is About to Get Some Upgrades

M1 Abrams Tank

There are two critical components in modern armored ground warfare: reliability of the weapon and protection of the crew. The M1 Abrams tank has a distinguished battlefield record of fulfilling both of these requirements.

The M1 Abrams is named for General Creighton W. Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and commander of the 37th Armored Battalion. Entered into service in 1980, the M1 serves as the main battle tank of the U.S. Army.

Several models are also used by the military in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Australia, Egypt, and Kuwait. The tank is noted for its maneuverability, stability, and firing accuracy. Built with a composite armor of layered steel and ceramic block, the M1 body provides superior crew protection from enemy fire and chemical and biological threats.

The M1 Abrams was used in several NATO Cold War training exercises prior to being used in battle. In 1991, the M1 first saw battle in the Persian Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm. The tanks were also later deployed in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Next-generation M1 Abrams technology

During its years of service, the M1 has been reconfigured and upgraded several times to improve protection, armament, and electronics. At the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, the new generation M1A2C is being tested after undergoing yet another series of extensive upgrades.

The U.S. has awarded a $193 million contract to Leonardo DRS, Inc. to equip M1A2C with Trophy active protection systems. Through the use of radar, this advanced protection system enables the tank crew to detect and classify incoming rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles.

Trophy APS is able to track, compute coordinates, and alert the crew, firing countermeasures to intercept incoming threats targeting the tank. The M1A2C is the first version of U.S. tanks to support the Trophy system.

The 120-millimeter main gun has been shielded with a newly developed, classified armor package. The weapon is supported by an advanced system of firing controls known as Ammunition Data Link. ADL enables the crew to accurately set firing distance based on the type of target, environment, and terrain. Recently developed for the ADL is advanced multi-purpose ammunition, AMP, designed to allow a choice of firing options.

Combat ready

Improved Forward Looking Infrared sights (FLIR), closed circuit color cameras, and laser warning system sensors have been also designed and installed. This advanced technology alerts the crew if the tank has been targeted by an enemy laser.

A new type of paint has been developed to reduce the M1A2C’s infrared signature, making it harder to detect. The exterior coating lessens the amount of heat signal that is generated from internal engines, electronics, and power units. This new coating makes it more difficult for heat-seeking weapons to target the tank.

Also being tested is a new adjustable track system. All of these advanced improvements are expected to add several tons of additional weight to the M1A2C. To compensate, the tank’s powertrain and power systems have been upgraded.

At the Yuma facility, test engineer Robert Wilson is putting the M1A2C through its paces. “The sheer power of moving over 70 tons, no problem,” said Wilson. “The purpose of testing is to get ready for combat. We want that system to be as perfect as it can be and perform flawlessly.”