The World's Best Main Battle Tank Just Keeps Getting Better

May 6, 2021 Topic: M1 Abrams Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Reboot Tags: U.S. ArmyAbramsAbrams TankTankDefense Spending

The World's Best Main Battle Tank Just Keeps Getting Better

The vaunted M1 Abrams is getting some important upgrades.

Here's What You Need to Know: Among the improvements cited by the U.S. Army is a Joint Tactical Radio System.

The United States Army will be getting some brand-new tanks—the most recently updated version of its M1A2 Abrams. The Department of Defense (DoD) announced this month that General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. in Sterling Heights, Michigan, was awarded a $4,620,000,000 fixed-price-incentive contract to produce Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 tanks. Bids were solicited via the Internet with one received, and work locations and funding will be determined with each order.

The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, is the contracting activity, and the estimated completion date for the contract is June 17, 2028. However, the announcement didn’t actually specify how many brand new Abrams tanks will be procured but according to the DoD’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Budget Estimates, released in February 2020, the Army could field up to 2,101 SEPv3 tanks as part of its Abrams Upgrade Program.

The Army had previously announced that production for the M1A2 SEPv3 was being conducted at JSMC in Lima, Ohio and at the Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Alabama.

The M1A2 SEPv3 (System Enhanced Package) is the most recent modernized configuration of the Abrams main battle tank (MBT) that is in service with the United States Army. SEPv3 will replace M1A2 SEPv2 which has been in production since 2005.

According to the Army, “This version rectifies many of the space, weight and power issues identified during Operation Iraqi Freedom and will be the foundational variant for all future incremental upgrades.”

M1A2 SEPv3 will offer improved survivability but can also host any “mature technology” the Army deems operationally relevant. These improvements will focus on increasing the electrical power margin, Vehicle Health Management Systems, integrated counter-improvised explosive device protection, a new Auxiliary Power Unit, embedded training and an ammunition data link. The Army has described SEPv3 as “the most reliable Abrams tank ever produced,” and suggested that this upgraded version will decrease the Army’s logistic burden and will lead the Army in enterprise-level connectivity to maintenance and supply systems.

Among the improvements cited by the U.S. Army is a Joint Tactical Radio System, which provides Integration of the Government Furnished Equipment Joint Tactical Radio System Handheld, Manpack, and Small Form Fit radio to support the need to establish network readiness and maintain battle command and communications interoperability with future Brigade Combat Teams.

The SEPv3 also features upgraded Power Generation and Distribution, which are aspects that offer Improved Amperage Alternator, Slip Ring, Enhanced Hull Power Distribution Unit/Common Remote Switching Modules, and the Battery Monitoring System. These technologies address the power demand growth potential and the need for dissemination of critical information. The Line Replaceable Unit/Line Replaceable Modules have been upgraded as well.

An improved Ammunition Data Link (ADL) was added, as it was required to program the M829A4 Advanced Kinetic Energy and Advanced Multi-Purpose rounds.

According to Task & Purposes, soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division were the first to take possession of the SEPv3 back in May of this year.

Additionally, SEPv3 isn’t the final planned upgrade for the M1A2 Abrams. A SEPv4 is already in development, and according to the Army, “The cornerstone technology is the third generation (3GEN) FLIR, which will provide tank crews much greater lethality. The 3GEN FLIR will be an upgrade to both sights and will be common with other combat platforms. With the upgrade, the Abrams will integrate a color camera, Eye-safe Laser Range Finder and a cross-platform laser pointer to facilitate multidomain battle into the commander’s sight. In addition to a lethality upgrade, the M1A2 SEPv4 will include full-embedded training to maximize crew proficiency of the system. This program began early enough to on-board any technology the Army deems critical to the future battlefield to include artificial intelligence, autonomy, APS or advanced sensors.”

The Army is determined to ensure that its tank remains among the best in the world, and these upgrades could ensure it remains a lethal platform well into the twenty-first-century.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

This article first appeared in December 2020.

Image: REUTERS / Ints Kalnins