It may have the same basic external configuration, weight and 120-millimeter cannon, but today’s Abrams tank is, simply put, far more lethal than ever before due to the addition of sensors, ammunition, armor, EW and new weapons.
The battle-tested platform has over the years, continued to incorporate cutting-edge innovations. For example, the Army is now testing and preparing a new Advanced. Multi-Purpose Round 120mm ammunition shell which offers attacks an immediate and efficient choice about which kind of explosive they may wish to use for a specific scenario. The AMP round is being prepared for a far-superior M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond—designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
The AMP round, according to Northrop Grumman and Army developers, will replace four tank rounds now in use by consolidating various possible blast effects into a single round, using variable “fuse” adjustments and an advanced Ammunition Data Link. The first two rounds being consolidated into the AMP are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti-Tank, or MPAT, round. The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M1A2 SEP v3, the new Abrams brings a new high-resolution display for gunner and commander stations and new electronic Line Replaceable Units. It also features a driver’s control panel and a turret control unit. This M1A2 SEP v3 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare weapons such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device—Electronic Warfare—CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams V4, to fully emerge by the mid-2020s, will include new sensors, color cameras, laser rangefinder technology, ammunition data links and meteorological sensors help weapons sights and fire control account for weather conditions when it comes to firing rounds at enemy targets. The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single-vehicle.
Kris Osborn is Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.