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M1A2C [ex M1A2 SEPv3]

General Dynamics Land Systems Inc., Sterling Heights, Michigan, on 18 Decembe 2020 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. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of June 17, 2028. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, is the contracting activity (W56HZV-21-D-0001).

M1A2C [ex M1A2 SEPv3] is the next version of the Abrams tank. The most modernized M1A2 Abrams main battle tank configuration, the M1A2 SEPv3, weighs in excess of 80 tons. On 16 December 2015 the US Army awarded General Dynamics a $92.2 million contract to upgrade M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEP V3 configuration. Initial pilot M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks were delivered to the Army in October 2017. On 04 October 2017 the Army accepted the first of six M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 3 initial production vehicles. Production for the M1A2 SEPv3 is being conducted at JSMC in Lima, Ohio and at the Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Alabama.

The M1A2 SEPv3 is a tracked, land combat, assault weapon system possessing significant survivability, shoot-on-the-move firepower, joint interoperability (for the exchange of tactical and support information), and a high degree of maneuverability and tactical agility. The Army intends the M1A2 SEPv3 to enable the crew to engage the full spectrum of enemy ground targets with a variety of accurate point and area fire weapons in urban and open terrain.

The M1A2 SEPv3 includes multiple upgrades to improve power generation and distribution to support power demands of future technologies, network compatibility, and survivability against multiple threats by incorporating NEA, a new underbody IED kit and other vulnerability reduction measures to reduce the tank’s vulnerability to IEDs. These measures include redesigned crew seating, additional floor stiffners, hardware to provide lower limb protection, and changes in the material and dimensions of internal structural supports.

In order to keep the M-1 Abrams Tank, the M-2/M-3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the M-1126 Stryker Combat Vehicle operational and effective over a prolonged period, a variety of activities have been undertaken over the lives of these vehicles. The most common terms used to describe these activities are modernization, recapitalization and reset.

Modernizations involve upgrades, replacements, refurbishments and technology insertions to existing weapon systems. Recapitalizations involve either completely overhauling and rebuilding an item (such as a tank or truck) so that it is returned to an “as-new” condition; or upgrading a system to include substantial improvements. Resets are designed to reverse the effects of combat stress on equipment through several activities to include replacing equipment lost in theater or deemed irreparable on its return, and repairing systems to bring them back to full mission capability.

As an example, Defense Contract Management Agency Detroit’s main battle tank ECP, known as Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 (Power), addresses power and data management systems to support inbound technology and the DoD’s network requirements. It also includes protection improvements like armor upgrades and counter radio-controlled improvised explosive device electronic jammers.

Improvements focus on increasing the electrical power margin; improving survivability with improved armor protection and advanced counter-improvised explosive device protection; integrating the new Army network; electronic component improvements; a new auxiliary power unit; and an ammunition data link. M1A2 SEPv3 program production began in 4QFY17.

DOT&E approved the Abrams M1A2 System Enhancement Program Version 3 (SEPv3) Main Battle Tank (MBT) Test and Evaluation Master Plan and LFT&E strategy on March 26, 2015. In FY15, the Army continued testing to characterize the performance of the M1A2 SEPv3 Next Evolutionary Armor (NEA) against multiple, operationally realistic threats.

The Army conducted underbody IED testing against M1A2 ballistic hull and turrets (BH&T) to challenge vulnerability reduction measures taken to improve the protection provided by the tank against underbody IEDs. The Program Office used these test results to determine which design changes to integrate into the M1A2 SEPv3 to improve underbody IED protection.

In accordance with DOT&E-approved test plans, the Army continued underbody IED T&E against M1A2 BH&T in FY15, to finalize design plans intended to improve M1A2 SEPv3 IED protection. The Army conducted additional testing in FY16 to better characterize the protection provided by the tank equipped with the new underbody kit and recently integrated vulnerability reduction features. These features include redesigned crew seating, additional floor stiffners, hardware to provide lower limb protection, and changes in the material and dimensions of internal structural supports.

In addition to armor protection upgrades to the Abrams Tank, the Next Evolution Armor (NEA) development effort also addressed both weight reduction and crew protection improvements for under-body blast (UBB). Weight reduction was accomplished through a redesign of the existing Aluminum UBB kit that resulted in a thinner, lighter-weight Steel UBB kit which provided equivalent protection, improved ground clearance and mobility as well as simplified kit installation. Crew protection was significantly improved through incorporation of a mixture of stiffening the basket structure and reducing impulse/arresting secondary projectiles.

Specifically, this was accomplished through the use of blast mitigating seats and footrests/blast mats, redesigned turret basket support posts, incorporation of expanded platform stiffeners, installation of a crushable mount for the hydraulic manifold and energy absorbing under-basket stanchions and redesign/strengthening of the access panel, hinges and locking mechanism. NEA UBB Improvements successfully completed UBB Testing using both legacy (Comer) and Engineered Roadbed soils, resulting in drastic improvement for the Loader and overall reduced severity of injury to the rest of the crew. All of these enhancements are incorporated into the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams Tank and will reduce casualties to the Abrams Tank System crew by providing blast mitigating and energy absorbing systems at the lowest possible overall system weight. The ability to identify targets prior to engagement remains one of the biggest obstacles to improving Abrams lethality. The new IFLIR solves this problem using long- and mid-wave infrared technology in both the gunner’s primary sight and the commander’s independent thermal viewer. The IFLIR provides four fields of view (FOV) displayed on high-definition displays, greatly improving target acquisition, identification and engagement times – compared to the current secondgeneration FLIR – under all conditions, including fog / obscurants.

The Abrams’ lethality is further improved through a product improvement to LP CROWS. This effort improves the tank commander’s situational awareness without compromising capability. LP CROWS significantly lowers the profile of the weapon station, returning both open - and closed-hatch FOV. Also, LP CROWS is equipped with an upgraded day camera that uses picture-in-picture technology to combine different FOVs, and it offers a 340 percent larger scene in the wide FOV.

Other M1A2 SEPv3 improvements include:

  • Joint Tactical Radio System: 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.
  • Power Generation and Distribution: Aspects include 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.
  • Line Replaceable Unit/Line Replaceable Modules Redesign: Migration of current force Abrams platforms to a two-level maintenance scheme can be initiated through the implementation of Line Replaceable Module technology.
  • Counter Remote Control Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare V3: Counter Remote Control Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare/Duke V3 is the latest version from PM CREW.
  • Ammunition Data Link: The ADL is required to program the M829A4 Advanced Kinetic Energy and Advanced Multi-Purpose rounds.
  • Auxiliary Power Unit: The under armor APU provides capability to operate on-board systems with a reduced probability of detection during silent watch operations.

The Army’s strategy for modernizing the Abrams fleet revolves around incrementally upgrading aspects of the platform through a combination of technological insertion and product improvements based on evolving threats and available technologies. The advances in Abrams lethality stem from a synergistic combination of technological efforts. The IFLIR will enable early and accurate target detection and identification. Once identified, the crew can then engage those targets with either of the two new enhanced rounds via the ADL with a high probability of hit / kill.

On July 25, 2018 the U.S. Army signed a delivery order for General Dynamics Land Systems to upgrade 100 more M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks to the state-of-the-art M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 3 (SEPv3) configuration. The delivery order is part of an Army Requirements Contract signed in December 2017 through which the Army can upgrade up to 435 M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEPv3 configuration. The M1A2 SEPv3 configuration features technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency, plus upgraded armor. Work on this delivery order will be performed at Land Systems locations in Scranton, Pa., and Tallahassee, Fla., and at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, the only operational tank plant in the country. On 13 August 2018 the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS), Product Director Main Battle Tank Systems (MBTS) and Product Manager (PdM) Foreign Military Sales (FMS) announced a market survey [W56HZV18R0189] to collect written information from industry to determine current market manufacturing capability to produce future Abrams M1A2 System Enhancement Program Version 3 (SEPv3) vehicles as well as multiple variants of FMS vehicles in the M1A1 and M1A2 configuration. This will be accomplished by the assembly and installation of legacy components and the production, procurement and installation of component kits. In addition to the Abrams Tank power management system, it required the installation, verification and test of newly developed technologies. It also required experience and current capabilities to remove, replace and fabricate Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA), High Hard armor steel, mild steel plate and Titanium plate by cutting, welding or brazing.

Troopers with 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were first to receive the Army’s newest version of the M1 Abrams Tank, the M1A2C (SEP v.3), Fort Hood, Texas, July 20, 2020. The overall modernization of the Greywolf brigade marked a milestone in armed forces history and made 3ABCT the most lethal and agile brigade in the world. The new addition of the M1A2C (SEP v.3) allows the brigade, and Army, to meet new limits when fighting adversaries and engaging in large-scale ground combat operations.

“This is the first time we have fielded a new tank in about 16 years,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas C. Sinclair, Commander of 3rd Batt. 8th Cav. Reg. “We will be the first ones trained on this so it’s really special to us to make sure we’re doing it right.” Over the course of a few weeks Greywolf Troopers became familiar with the new equipment. They planned to ensure every crew member knows how to operate, maintain, and utilize the tank in preparation of fielding the equipment.

Sinclair stated, "inside every tank is an imbedded trainer that allows the Troopers to get repetitions in while the tank is stationary rather than moving to a new location to conduct simulated training. The imbedded trainer is one of many modernizations made to the tank, but it’s not the only thing that makes it superior to its predecessors. There are updated firing systems that help build combat power as well."

“These are lightyears ahead of the tanks we had before,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Singer, a platoon sergeant in the Greywolf brigade. “The computer systems in these and the fire-control systems are amazing. You become more lethal, more aggressive, and all aspects of the tanks are better.”

The Troopers took the tanks to the field and conducted gunnery live-fire exercises where they had the chance to prove themselves as the most lethal armored brigade in the world. “The Soldier makes the vehicle, the vehicle doesn’t make the Soldier,” said Singer. “We train harder than anyone else, and it shows.”

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