M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Program)
Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, program executive officer for ground combat systems, in a 15 August 2018 memo, directed M1A2 system enhancement program versions 3 and 4 to be renamed M1A2C and M1A2D, respectively.
The Abrams tank closes with and destroys enemy forces on the integrated battlefield using mobility, firepower and shock effect. The Abrams tank upgrade ensures that the warfighter will continue to possess the lethality, survivability and fightability necessary to defeat advanced threats well into the future. The Abrams is the Army’s primary ground combat system. The Abrams must be capable of engaging the enemy in any weather, day or night, on the multi-dimensional, non-linear battlefield using firepower, maneuver and shock effect.
An increasing array of threat tactics and weapons – including advanced explosive reactive armor (AERA), Active Protection Systems (APS) and improvised explosive devices – necessitate continual improvement to the Abrams platform so it can meet this mission.
For current and recent operations, the Abrams underwent many upgrades and configuration changes in response to evolving threats. Upgrades like the Tank Urban Survivability Kit (TUSK) – which includes advanced reactive armor, upgraded belly armor and crew armored gunshields – greatly enhanced platform survivability, especially in the complex urban terrain prevalent in Iraq.
The Abrams tank upgrade includes two powerful variants: the M1A1 SA (Situational Awareness) and the M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Program) version 2. The 1,500-horsepower turbine engine, the 120 mm main gun and special armor make the Abrams tank particularly lethal against heavy armor forces.
M1A1 SA improvements include the Gunner’s Primary Sight with enhanced thermal imaging capabilities of the new Block I 2nd generation forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology. Lethality improvements include the Stabilized Commander’s Weapon Station and ballistic solution upgrades for the M829A3 kinetic and the M1028 canister rounds. Modifications include Blue Force Tracking, a digital command and control system that gives commanders current information about their location relative to friendly forces, and the Power Train Improvement and Integration Optimization Program (Total InteGrated Engine Revitalization engine and improved transmission), which provides more reliability and durability. Survivability improvements include frontal armor and turret side-armor upgrades.
M1A2 SEPv2 upgrades include improved survivability, automotive power pack, computer systems and night vision capabilities. Lethality improvements include Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station and ballistic solution upgrades for the M829A3 kinetic and the M1028 canister rounds. The M1A2 SEPv2 has improved microprocessors, color flat-panel displays, improved memory capacity, better Soldier-machine interface and a new open operating system designed to run the Common Operating Environment software. Both the Gunner’s Primary Sight and the Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer tank include the improved thermal imaging capabilities of the new Block I 2nd generation FLIR technology. Abrams production of the M1A2 SEPv2 tank was complete FY16-2QFY17.
M1A2C [ex M1A2 SEPv3] clearly demonstrates improvements in communications, economy, protection, reliability and survivability. Such results were obtained with the help of a new auxiliary power plant and modernization of the main one, improved booking materials, etc. General Dynamics Land Systems, which developed the SEP v.3 project, initially received an order for the modernization of 45 available tanks. The current SEP v.3 project to some extent prepares the ground for the implementation of the new SEP v.4 upgrade. It implements a modern approach to the formation of a complex of onboard equipment, corresponding to the concept of open architecture. With this approach, future upgrades can be implemented by relatively simple replacement of hardware and software components - as they become available. The M1A2 SEP v.3 project will actually become the basis for future updates to armored vehicles.
SEP v.3 also provides a flexible approach to security. Depending on the current situation and existing threats, unit commanders will be able to choose a suitable set of additional equipment. The new set of additional protection will be similar to the TUSK system, including overhead armor, reactive armor and shields for open machine gun installations. At the same time, the new kit will surpass TUSK in basic characteristics. The modern approach of the SEP v.3 project will allow changing the level of protection, as well as changing the weight of the vehicle. Thus, through the use of aluminum alloys, it was possible to lighten the cover plates for the bottom by about a thousand pounds (450 kg).
M1A2D [ex M1A2 SEPv4] will be launched for testing in 2021. The project is being created as a "lethal upgrade" that will allow existing tanks to take and maintain a leading position among the main tanks in the world. The improved tank will receive an updated laser rangefinder, color video cameras, an improved turret ring with slip rings, a meteorological equipment complex, ammunition programming tools, radiation warning devices and improved 120-mm shells. The central element of the technical specifications for SEP v.4 is the introduction of a new third generation thermal imaging system. Digital equipment of a new type should have higher resolution and increased detection range. It is also required to reduce the sensitivity of the equipment to various interference. One way or another, improved thermal imagers will allow the tank to find and identify potentially dangerous objects earlier. This will give Abrams clear advantages. Modern scopes with a night channel can lead to an advantage in observation and detection range, due to which the tank is able to detect the enemy before he sees him. All this was clearly shown during the wars in Iraq, when the M1A2 tanks collided with the Soviet-made T-72.
The M1A2SEP v.4 project provides for an increase in the firing range and projectile efficiency. In addition, it is proposed to install means for detecting laser irradiation, as well as the use of a circular visual review system. The new meteorological sensors are said to improve the accuracy of current conditions with an understandable increase in fire efficiency. An interesting innovation in the SEP v.4 upgrade will be improved slip rings that connect the hull and turret hardware. With their help, it is planned to reduce the number of necessary "boxes" with equipment that provides communication between various on-board instruments. In new projects, attention is paid to additional protection of equipment. At present, the development and implementation of active protection systems capable of timely detecting and destroying an approaching anti-tank ammunition is accelerating.
The Continuous Electronic Enhancement Program (CEEP) comprises the latest System Enhancement Package (SEP) and the Tank Urban Survivability Kit (TUSK) both for M1A1 and M1A2s operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. This program comprises advanced digital systems and better compatibility for the Army’s future combat systems integration. It is a retrofit for SEP models.
General Dynamic's CEEP is part of the overall Abrams Tank Systems Enhancement Package (SEP) upgrade and will integrate new technologies that will reduce future obsolescence issues and take advantage of improved processing and display capabilities. The SEP upgrade includes improved processors, color and high-resolution flat panel displays, increased memory capacity and an open operating system that will allow for future technology growth.
Other upgrades include the replacement of thermal imaging techniques with a Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) sighting system. This fully integrated engagement-sighting system is designed to provide the tank commander and gunner with significantly improved day and night acquisition and engagement capabilities.
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