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M1A2 Abrams

The mission of the M1A2 Abrams tank is to close with and destroy enemy forces using firepower, maneuver, and shock effect. The M1A2 is being fielded to armor battalions and cavalry squadrons of the heavy force. In lieu of new production, the Army is upgrading approximately 1,000 older M1 tanks to the M1A2 configuration. Going from the M1A1 to M1A2, the Army did several things that significantly reduced ballistic vulnerability, adding dual, redundant harnesses components, redundant data buses, distributing electrical power systems so all the power controls are not in one place.

The M1A2 is the second major block improvement to the Abrams Tank System. The current product configurations include the Intervehicular Information System (IVIS), Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV), a Position/Navigation System (POS/NAV), an Improved Commander's Weapon Station (ICWS) and integration of the vehicle electronics system through the use of a dual redundant data (MILSTD 1553D) and utility bus architecture. In August 1999 the production configuration will include the System Enhancement Package improvements. These improvements include the 2nd Generation FLIR; Embedded Battle Command (EBC) command and control software; a Management System (TMS); and an Under Armor Auxiliary Power Unit (UAAPU). In addition to a program to upgrade previously procured M1 tanks to the M1A2 configuration, the Army provides management for the M1A2s sold to Saudi Arabian and Kuwait FMS customers.

During the Army's current M1A2 procurement program about 1,000 older, less capable M1 series tanks will be upgraded to the M1A2 configuration and fielded to the active forces. There is currently no plan to field the M1A2 to the ARNG. The Army has procured 62 new tanks in the A2 configuration and as of early 1997 completed the conversion of 368 older M1s to M1A2s. The first three years of M1A2 Abrams upgrade tank work, between 1991-1993, delivered 267 tanks. A multi-year procurement of 600 M1A2 upgrade tanks was run at Lima [Ohio] Army tank plant from 1996 to 2001.

Further M1A2 improvements, called the System Enhancement Program (SEP), are underway to enhance the tank's digital command and control capabilities and to to improve the tank's fightability and lethality. In FY 1999, the Army began upgrading M1s to the M1A2 System Enhancement Program (SEP) configuration. In 1994, the Army awarded a contract to General Dynamics Land Systems to design system enhancements to the M1A2, and awarded GDLS another contact in 1995 to supply 240 of the enhanced M1A2s, with delivery scheduled to begin in 1999. M1A2 SEP started fielding in 2000. It adds second generation forward looking infrared technology to the gunner's and commander's thermal sights. This sensor also will be added to older M1A2s starting in FY 2001.

A multi-year contract for 307 M1A2 Abrams Systems Enhancement Program (SEP) tanks was awarded in March 2001 with production into 2004. The current Army plan allows for a fleet of 588 M1A2 SEP, 586 M1A2 and 4,393 M1A1 tanks. The potential exits for a retrofit program of 129 M1A2 tanks to the SEP configuration between 2004 and 2005. Initial fielding of the M1A2 to the Army's 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, was complete by August 1998. Fielding to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Ft. Carson, Colorado ended in 2000. Fielding of the M1A2 (SEP) began in spring 2000 with the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, and continues. Rolling over of the 1st Cavalry Division's M1A2 tanks to new M1A2 (SEP) tank began in 2001 and continues.

The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package), is the digital battlefield centerpiece for Army XXI. It is the heavy force vehicle that will lead Armor into the next century and transition the close combat mission to the Future Combat System (FCS). The M1A2 SEP is an improved version of the M1A2. It contains numerous improvements in command and control, lethality and reliability. The M1A2 System Enhanced Program is an upgrade to the computer core that is the essence of the M1A2 tank. The SEP upgrade includes improved processors, color and high resolution flat panel displays, increased memory capacity, user friendly Soldier Machine Interface (SMI) and an open operating system that will allow for future growth. Major improvements include the integration of the Second Generation Forward Looking Infared (2nd Gen FLIR) sight, the Under Armor Auxiliary Power Unit (UAAPU) and a Thermal Management System (TMS).

Increased funding for Stryker and Future Combat Systems (FCS) came as a result of Army decisions in 2002 to terminate or restructure some 48 systems in the FY '04-'09 Program Objective Memorandum (POM) long-term spending plan. Among the systems terminated were: United Defense's Crusader self-propelled howitzer and the A3 upgrade for the Bradley Fighting vehicle, GD's M1A2 Abrams System Enhancement Program, Lockheed Martin's Army Tactical Missile System Block II and the associated pre-planned product improvement version of Northrop Grumman's Brilliant Anti-armor (BAT) munition, Raytheon's Stinger missile and Improved Target Acquisition System, and Textron's Wide Area Mine.

The 2nd Generation Forward Looking InfraRed sighting system (2nd Gen FLIR) will replace the existing Thermal Image System (TIS) and the Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer. The incorporation of 2nd Gen FLIR into the M1A2 tank will require replacement of all 1st Gen FLIR components. From the warfighter perspective, this is one of the key improvements on the SEP. The 2nd Gen FLIR is a fully integrated engagement-sighting system designed to provide the gunner and tank commander with significantly improved day and night target acquisition and engagement capability. This system allows 70% better acquisition, 45% quicker firing and greater accuracy. In addition, a gain of 30% greater range for target acquisition and identification will increase lethality and lessen fratricide. The Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV) provides a hunter killer capability. The 2nd GEN FLIR is a variable power sighting system ranging from 3 or 6 power (wide field of view) for target acquisition and 13, 25 or 50 power (narrow field of view) for engaging targets at appropriate range.

The UAAPU consist of a turbine engine, a generator, and a hydraulic pump. The generator is capable of producing 6 Kilowatts of electrical power at 214 Amps, 28 vdc, and the hydraulic pump is capable of delivering 10 Kilowatts of hydraulic power. The UAAPU can meet the electrical and hydraulic power to operate all electronic and hydraulic components used during mounted surveilance operations and charge the tank's main batteries. The UAAPU will reduce Operational and Support cost by utilizing the same fuel as the tank at a reduced rate of 3-5 gallons per operational hour. The UAAPU is mounted on the left rear sponson fuel cell area and weighs 510 pounds.

Another improvement in the M1A2 SEP is the Thermal Management System (TMS) which keeps the temperature within the crew compartment under 95 degrees and the touch temperature of electronic units under 125 degrees during extreme conditions. By reducing the temperature in the crew compartment for the crew and electronic units, this increases the operational capability for both soldiers and the vehicle. The TMS consists of an Air Handling Unit (AHU) and a Vapor Compression System Unit (VCSU) capable of providing 7.5 Kilowatts of cooling capacity for the crew and Line Repairable Units (LRUs). The AHU is mounted in the turret bustle and the VCSU is mounted forward of the Gunner's Primary Sight (GPS). The TMS uses enviromentally friendly R134a refrigerant and propylene glycol/water mixture to maintain the LRU touch temperature at less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The TMS is mounted in the left side of turret bussel and weighs 384 pounds.

The Army requires that all systems operate in the Army Common Operating Environment (ACOE) to improve combined arms operations. Digitization and information dominance across the entire Army for tactical elements is accomplished using Force XXI Battle Command for Brigade and Below (FBCB2) software. In Abrams, FBCB2 software is hosted on a separate card that enables situational awareness across the entire spectrum of tactical operation. It improves message flow, through 34 joint variable message formats, reports ranging from contact reports to logistic roll ups, as well as automatically providing vehicle location to friendly systems. The SEP allows for digital data dissemination with improved ability to optimize information based operations and maintain a relevant common picture while executing Force XXI full dimensional operation. This enhancement increases capability to control the battlefield tempo while improving lethality and survivability. Finally to ensure crew proficiency is maintained, each Armor Battalion is fielded an improved Advanced Gunnery Training System (AGTS) with state-of-the-art graphics.

Changes to the M1A2 Abrams Tank contained in the System Enhancement Program (SEP) and "M1A2 Tank FY 2000" configuration are intended to improve lethality, survivability, mobility, sustainability and provide increased situational awareness and command & control enhancements necessary to provide information superiority to the dominant maneuver force. The Abrams Tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle are two central components of the dominant maneuver digital force.

System Enhancement Program upgrades are intended to:

  • improve target detection, recognition and identification with the addition of two 2nd generation FLIRs.
  • incorporate an under armor auxiliary power unit to power the tank and sensor suites.
  • incorporate a thermal management system to provide crew and electronics cooling.
  • increase memory and processor speeds and provide full color map capability.
  • provide compatibility with the Army Command and Control Architecture to ensure the ability to share command & control and situational awareness with all components of the combined arms team.

Additional weight reduction, embedded battle command, survivability enhancement, signature management, safety improvement, and product upgrade modifications to the M1A2 will comprise the "M1A2 Tank FY 2000" configuration fielded to units of the digital division beginning in FY 2000.

The M1A2 IOT&E was conducted from September-December 1993 at Fort Hood, TX and consisted of a gunnery phase and a maneuver phase. The Director determined that the test was adequate, the M1A2 was operationally effective, but not operationally suitable and unsafe. That assessment was based on poor availability and reliability of the tank, instances of the uncommanded tube and turret movement, inadvertent .50 caliber machine gun firing, and hot surfaces which caused contact burns.

FOT&E #1 was conducted in September-October 1995 in conjunction with the New Equipment Training for two battalion sized units. Despite assurances from the Army that all corrective actions were applied, numerous instances of uncommanded tube and turret movement, Commander's Independent Display (CID) lockup and contact burns continued during FOT&E #1. The follow-on test was placed on hold and the Army "deadlined" the two battalions of M1A2 tanks at Fort Hood for safety reasons. The PM isolated 30 "root causes" of the safety problems and completed hardware and software upgrades in June 1996 which were assessed in FOT&E #2.

The M1A2 TEMP was approved during 2QFY98. This TEMP includes a coordinated plan for FOT&E #3 of the M1A2 in conjunction with the IOT&E of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle in FY99 at Fort Hood, TX. This combined operational test will consist of 16 force-on-force battles between a Bradley Fighting Vehicle System-A3/M1A2 SEP combined arms team and M1A1/ Bradley-ODS combined arms team. Additionally, it will serve as the operational test for the 2d Generation FLIR. This approach implements the Secretary of Defense theme of combining testing in order to save resources and ensure a more realistic operational environment.

The Army and DOT&E completed vulnerability assessment efforts and concluded that the "M1A2 Tank FY 2000" is a significant change from the original M1A2 design and will require a system-level survivability evaluation. This evaluation will rely on full-up system level testing of two systems, component and sub-system level testing, modeling and simulation, existing data, and previous testing to assess susceptibility and vulnerability of the "M1A2 Tank FY 2000" and its crew to the expected threat and to assess battle damage repair capabilities.

The M1A2 Abrams Tank with the corrective actions applied by the Program Manager during FY96 is assessed to be operationally effective and suitable. The availability, reliability, fuel consumption, and safety problems observed in previous testing have been corrected. FOT&E #2 was adequately conducted in accordance with approved test plans and the Abrams TEMP. There were no observed instances of the uncommanded tube and turret movement, inadvertent .50 caliber machine gun firing, and hot surfaces which caused contact burns in previous testing.

The largest area of technical risk to the program is the development of the Embedded Battle Command software which is intended to provide friendly and enemy situational awareness and shared command & control information throughout the combined arms team. This software is being developed as a Horizontal Technology Insertion program and will be provided to the weapon systems and C2 nodes of the combined arms team in FY00. This development schedule is high risk and could adversely impact the M1A2 schedule.

In late 2002 the Army experienced a tragic accident involving the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank. While the crew of the M1A2 was operating the vehicle, a failure within the vehicle's Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) main system occurred which resulted in an NBC filter fire. One soldier died and 9 others received injuries. While there are numerous factors involved in this accident, the primary cause of the NBC Filter fire is an air cycle machine seizure, caused by dirt ingestion.

The M1A2 tank provides various warnings and cautions to crewmembers in the case of an NBC system problem. These warnings and cautions are displayed visually at the Commander's Integrated Display (CID) and at the Driver's Integrated Display (DID); additionally, an Audio tone is transmitted to each crewman via the Vehicular Intercommunication Set (VIS). The audio warning is generated from the tank's Analog Input Module (AIM) by way of the 2W119-5 wiring harness (Y-cable) which is connected to the driver's station, full-function, control box (AN/VIC 3). This Y-cable must be connected to the driver's control box at the J3 connector with the driver's CVC plugged into the P4 end of the Y-cable. Failure to properly hookup the 2W119-5 cable will not interfere with vehicle communications, but it will result in NO NBC warning tone being heard. In addition to the accident vehicle, several other M1A2 tanks at this installation were found to have the same incorrect connection. Commanders should ensure that each M1A2 in their command is inspected to ensure that this system is correctly connected. The NBC system should not be used until the inspection is complete.

If an NBC warning message is given (visually or audio), crews should immediately press NBC MAIN pushbutton on the CID to turn off the NBC main system. Continued use of the NBC main system will result in an NBC filter fire.

The NBC system is a critical component of the M1A2; it provides crews with increased protection when operating in a combat environment. This system requires proper servicing and checks as outlined in the technical manual. Ensure that all NBC sponson bolts and hardware are properly mounted and secure at all times. Failure to do so can result in the build up of dirt and dust within the NBC sponson box with the potential of damaging the Air Cycle Machine (ACM) and other components.

The M1A2 Abrams is one of world's top main battle tanks when it comes to anti-armor firepower and protection but it latest modification cannot boast some capabilities which main battle tanks made in Russia, Germany or Israel have. What the Abrams does lack is a high-explosive fragmentation round, which is found in foreign tanks. Foreign tanks also have various capabilities that American vehicles don't, such as active protection systems on Israeli and Russian models, and appliqu top armor on the Leopard.

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Page last modified: 28-09-2018 11:37:10 ZULU