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Anniston Army Depot, RTI complete M1 trainer prototype

May 27, 2010

By Miranda Myrick (TACOM LCMC)

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - Anniston Army Depot and Defense contractor Research Triangle Institute International reached a milestone May 17 when the partners completed the first overhauled and upgraded Abrams Maintenance Trainer to be produced here. This trainer is the prototype in a $7.5 million program that began in September 2009.

A trainer includes all the working parts of an M1 tank excluding the powerpack, armor and track. Soldiers at training sites like Fort Knox, Ky., use the simulators to learn the operation and maintenance of the main battle tank before they deploy with the vehicles, said James Hardy, depot program manager.

"These maintenance trainers teach the Soldiers how to repair tanks quickly when they're in the battlefield," said Hardy.

The depot's Directorate of Production, Directorate of Engineering and Quality and Directorate of Contracting teamed with RTI in a direct sales agreement in which the depot serves as a subcontractor to RTI.

For this public-private partnership, or P3, the depot provides manufacturing and production support services in the refurbishment and upgrade of Abrams Maintenance Trainers. The depot is under contract to produce 16 upgraded M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 2 trainers and two M1A1 SA/ED trainers.

This is the first program to upgrade maintenance trainers to the same M1 versions being used by troops in combat, said Ricky Little, contract specialist with Army Contracting Command.

The prototype required extensive modifications and re-engineering as mechanics and welders worked to make the required upgrades.

"These mechanics jumped into this work with no hesitation. They looked at the prints, took the ball and ran with it," said Linley Haynes, lead man for the direct labor on the trainers.

Upgrading the Abrams trainer to a simulated M1A2 SEP V2 or a M1A1 SA/ED includes the installation of a "new electronic brain system" and a spinning turret, a capability that former models of the trainer didn't have, said Little.

Little and DEQ's Drue Snow, ANAD engineering technician, work with RTI to get DP the parts and components needed for the program.

"If something doesn't fit like it's supposed to, we collaborate with RTI to make sure Production is getting what they want," said Snow.

The Army's TACOM Lifecycle Management Command issued M1 tanks specifically for the trainer program, said Hardy. The parts being used to refurbish and upgrade the trainers come from M1A1s, M1A2s, M1A2V1 and M1A2V2 SEP vehicles.

"Just like with our regular vehicle overhaul programs, we're conducting a full disassembly, overhauling the parts and components, refurbishing and upgrading it," said Hardy.

Comparing this trainer to the tank, Hardy said he doesn't see much difference between the two when the Soldier is inside the maintenance trainer. "It looks like it, feels like it. It is it," he said.

Dion Chen, a program manager with RTI, said the P3 team worked well to resolve issues with the prototype and to mitigate risks in the design and production of the new product.

"Everything I've seen at the depot is well organized and managed," said Chen. "This program is being executed by highly skilled experts, and I'm happy with the quality of their delivered work. I am looking forward to a long-term partnership between RTI and ANAD on future programs."

For the Abrams Maintenance Trainer program, RTI is the prime contractor to the Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation in Orlando, Fla.

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