Heavy Duty: The Army's Upgraded Abrams Tank Is a Killer

Heavy Duty: The Army's Upgraded Abrams Tank Is a Killer

The Abrams M1A2 SEPv4 will be the most advanced tank ever fielded by the United States.

The U.S. Army’s Abrams main battle tank, the backbone of the Army, is in for one of the most significant upgrades it ever received. A document released by The Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation gives details on what the upgrades the Abrams will incorporate.

The document explains that the Army “plans to begin fielding the Abrams M1A2 SEPv4 in 1QFY25.” It adds that the upgraded Abrams M1A2 SEPv4 includes the following: an improved Gunner’s Primary Sight (GPS) with Third Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3GEN FLIR); a more effective Laser Range Finder (LRF) and Color Camera; an improved Commander’s primary sight with 3GEN FLIR, an improved LRF, laser pointer, and color camera; enhanced lethality due to the fire control system's ability to digitally communicate with the new Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP) Round; enhanced firing accuracy through the installation of a Meteorological Sensor; and upgraded onboard diagnostics

One of the significant defensive improvements to the upgraded Abrams—and an improvement that is making its way across America's Abrams fleet—is the incorporation of the Trophy Active Protection System into the tank.

The Israeli-developed system intercepts anti-tank guided missiles, recoilless rifle projectiles, and rocket-propelled grenades. The document explained that once identified and tracked via onboard radar, shotgun spray-like projectiles intercept the threat, and the tank’s armor absorbs the incoming projectile.

Trophy is considered highly effective against the type of threats it is designed to protect against. The downside? Trophy adds about 5,000 pounds to the tank’s weight—and the Abrams is already one of the heaviest main battle tanks.

The Abrams is so heavy that it has become a logistical nightmare. Weighing over seventy tons, the Abrams would have difficulty traversing some of Europe’s rails and bridges. For a tank made to fend off threats to European allies, weight has become a singular issue.

The successor to the Abrams M1A2 SEPv4 will address this weight issue. Renderings of the recently-revealed AbramsX suggest the new tank will have a redesigned hull and turret, likely to address the weight issue.

Less weight will result in greater range—though the AbramsX will also incorporate a hybrid drive, allowing the main battle tank to drive in all-electric mode in certain situations, and extending the tank’s range significantly in specific drive scenarios.

Though no panacea, the Abrams M1A2 SEPv4 will offer significant advantages over its predecessors until the AbramsX design is finalized and put into production.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson

Image: Reuters.