The U.S. Army is adding more heavy armored firepower to its arsenal of combat vehicles to include a large volume of upgraded Abrams main battle tanks, including a recently refined M1A2 SEPv3 tank configuration intended to bring the classic platform into a new era of modern, major-power warfare.
In a new, $4.6 billion deal with General Dynamics, the Army is acquiring a large number of new tanks, engineered with new high-resolution. Forward-looking infrared sensor cameras, active protection, improved weaponry and new levels of onboard electrical power.
“The M1A2 SEPv3 configuration features technological advancements in communications, fire control and lethality, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency, plus upgraded armor,” a General Dynamics statement said.
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 integrates 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, Army officials have explained to the National Interest.
The Abrams V4, to emerge by the mid-2020s, will include new sensors, color cameras, laser rangefinder technology, ammunition data links and meteorological sensors to help weapons sights and fire control account for weather conditions when it comes to firing rounds at enemy targets. The 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.
It is not a surprise that the Army is still looking to add large numbers of Abrams tanks to the force as there appears to be consensus among many weapons developers that there still is, and likely will be, a substantial need for heavy armor when it comes to the possibility of major power mechanized, force-on-force warfare. Abrams tanks can also function as a psychological deterrent because their presence can sometimes prevent potential adversaries from attacking or taking hostile action.
While lightweight armor composite materials able to bring significant protections at lower weights are likely evolving quickly, they may not necessarily be enough to fully replace heavy armor. Also, in the event that such composites do emerge, some of which may already be incorporated into the Army’s new Mobile Protected Firepower light tank or new infantry carrier, there certainly might be great value in stacking many of them on top of each other or, as may be the case with the Abrams, simply adding them onto the armor that is already there.
Heavy armor and the battle-tested Abrams tank, are likely here to stay for many years, as evidenced by the Army buy.
Kris Osborn is the 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.