New M1A3 Abrams Tank: AI, Drone Defense, and Lighter Than Ever Before

The U.S. Army's next-gen M1A3 Abrams will feature radical upgrades like drone defenses, AI integration, weight reduction, and a reconfigured turret to maintain battlefield supremacy against evolving threats.

Must Read

Frontier India News Network
Frontier India News Network
Frontier India News Network is the in-house news collection and distribution agency.

The U.S. Army and GDLS (General Dynamics Land Systems) are creating a preliminary design for the new M1A3 Abrams tank. During its development, the tank will be designated M1E3 (Experimental) and equipped with drone protection and a reduced weight.

In M1A2, the letter “M” represents “Model,” and “A” represents “Alteration.” Therefore, M1A2 is an abbreviation for “Model number 1, Alteration number 2.” Weapon systems developed from an existing model are denoted by the letter “E.” The letter “X” (Experimental) denotes a new weapons system. The letters “E” and “X” disappear following the development phase. In the end, it will be referred to as the M1A3 Abrams.

GDLS is developing the M1A3’s preliminary design. The U.S. Army’s requirements are being meticulously examined, with a focus on the lessons learned from Ukraine. The tank’s fundamental structure, including its primary components and their interactions, is being proposed.

Additionally, initial models, demonstrators, or prototypes will be developed, and documentation will be established to delineate the tank’s primary characteristics and functions.

Next, the Critical Design Review (CDR) will be held to determine whether the preliminary design satisfies all of the Army’s requirements and is prepared for Detailed Design. Adjustments and enhancements will be implemented in accordance with the CDR’s feedback. The final detailed design will determine the specifications of all components, materials, manufacturing processes, and testing procedures. The development and testing of final pre-production prototypes will be conducted, and comprehensive technical documentation will be generated.

The goal is to introduce the M1A3 into service before 2030 alongside the  Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle (MICV) M30. Brigadier General Geoffrey Norman, head of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, believes the simultaneous deployment of the M30 combat vehicles and M1E3 tanks would greatly benefit the Army. He predicts that senior Army officials are likely to push for synchronized schedules, though the feasibility of aligning the two deployment timelines remains uncertain.

Abrams X. Image: GDLS

This year, the CDR assessment for the new American Infantry Fighting Vehicle will be undertaken. The U.S. Army will select the winning solution from two competing firms – GDLS and Rheinmetall Vehicles – at the end of the fiscal year (FY) 2027 or at the beginning of FY 2028, which is expected to occur in the autumn of the calendar year 2028.

In the interim, the U.S. Army and GDLS will initiate the preliminary design of the M1A3. It is reasonable to anticipate a broad application of commercially available and mature technologies. In accordance with the Future Combat Systems program, the development of entirely new technologies is expected to be reduced.

General Norman states that a more concrete development schedule for the M1A3 will be established in the autumn. However, the primary design phase will require several years. Testing, verifying the interactions of all components, the vehicle’s interaction with other systems of the army combat formation, and, particularly, making adjustments and retesting are the most complex, expensive, and time-consuming aspects of the development of a new weapon system. Designing and building a prototype of a new combat vehicle is the simpler and faster part of the process.

General Norman commented on the M1E3 tank, stating that it represents a proposed change in the engineering solution and requirements for the Abrams tank platform. He explained that the M1E3 features a different design approach to meet the requirements set forth for Abrams upgrades. Norman indicated the M1E3 will be a completely reconfigured version of the Abrams tank compared to currently fielded variants.

There are no documented official army specifications for the M1A3. Nevertheless, one of the primary objectives is to decrease the Abrams’ combat weight from the current 66 metric tons to 54 metric tons.

So, what is to be expected from the M1A3 Tank Upgrades?

The M1A3 tank will be armed with an autoloader, a new power unit, crew situational awareness systems (IronVision), enhanced command and control capabilities, high-speed networking, artificial intelligence applications, the ability to combat robotic vehicles and camouflage to reduce visual, thermal, and electromagnetic signatures. The tank’s primary weapon will continue to be a smoothbore 120mm cannon connected to a 7.62mm machine gun.

The primary objective will be to safeguard against reactive grenades, guided missiles, and drones. This will encompass contemporary electronic warfare systems, probable reactive armor, and Active Protection Systems (APS) to destroy adversary drones and projectiles directly. The Army is also contemplating the development of remotely controlled weapon modules that are equipped with machine guns or cannons and are capable of eradicating small drones.

The most recent Israeli APS Trophy and IronFist versions will offer supplementary defense against drones. According to sources within the Israeli defense ministry, drone defense capabilities are being developed in response to imperative operational requirements, with the successful testing of enhanced APS.

The U.S. Army is closely monitoring Ukraine’s experiences, particularly in relation to FPV drones equipped with RPG warheads and capable of attacking vehicles’ relatively weak upper armor. Although tanks possess robust frontal protection, it is imperative to address vulnerabilities in the upper armor. General Norman underscored the significance of safeguarding the vehicle from assaults from the front, rear, front, side, and above, particularly emphasizing the threat posed by FPV drones.

These advancements aim to guarantee that the M1A3 tank continues to be a formidable asset on the battlefield, capable of defending against evolving threats and preserving operational superiority.

General Norman highlighted the exceptional protection of the Abrams tank against direct fire threats from enemy tanks and combat vehicles. However, he noted the Abrams was not originally designed to defend against threats attacking from above. He added that the Abrams, like any main battle tank, performs most effectively when maneuvering and attacking rather than remaining stationary. He pointed out that if a tank becomes immobile, it increases its vulnerability to enemy fire.

The M1A3 with an autoloader will have a substantially redesigned turret and workspace, as it will only have a three-person crew. The tank is probable to be equipped with a contemporary diesel engine, presumably with some degree of “hybridization.” The InArm hydropneumatic suspension will likely be implemented with the new propulsion system.

The New US M1A3 – The Abrams Tank Just Got a HUGE Makeover

According to all available information, the new American tank will not feature a commander’s entrance in the turret. This allows for the placement of additional protection, sensors, APS, or a weapon module, but it does not permit the commander to emerge from the hatch during combat or movement. This is a significant limitation of situational awareness.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


More Articles Like This