A programme is ongoing to modernize the main combat tank M1 Abrams of the United States Army. The M1A2 SEP v.4 or M1A2D prototype has arrived at one of the test sites and is now demonstrating its capability. Based on the findings, a large-scale, serial upgrading of existing tanks will start in the future.
The Abrams M1A2 is a tracked assault weapon system with a 120-mm main gun that provides firepower and interoperability while moving. The Army wants the Abrams tank to be extremely survivable and agile, capable of engaging or evading hostile elements on the battlefield before they pose a danger.
M1A2 SEP v.4 tank in testing
The modernization project M1A2 SEP v.4 (System Enhancement Package version 4) was developed over several years to enhance the existing tank. The prototype was expected to be designed and tested in the fiscal year 2022, but the project is somewhat behind schedule owing to several obstacles.
On October 6, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division of the United States Army uploaded a few images from recent training and testing activities on its Social Media channels.
Reports state that the tankers from the 2nd Battalion have arrived at the Yuma training site (Arizona) and are now engaged in testing the improved M1A2 SEP v.4 tank.
The public photographs show the latest Abrams tank in an unconventional layout with several new components. The markings “M1A2 SEP v.4” are affixed on the tank’s side screens. On other structural parts, the letters “PV05 SEPV4” are present. The tank has so far only been seen from the front and the right.
Previously, the Pentagon defined the primary objectives of the SEP v.4 project and outlined how the modernized tank would differ from its predecessors. It included expanding the concepts included in the preceding SEP v.3 tank. The project intends to install new units and replace some existing ones.
The photographs of the first improved M1A2 SEP v.4 reveal some of the vehicle’s characteristics. Specifically, it may be inferred that it was rebuilt from a tank of one of the older modifications, with all the essential components included. The MBT is upgraded to SEP v.3 levels and additional equipment for the futuristic tank project.
The prototype tank’s hull preserves its original look; only the inside parts of the new project were modified. The turret is taken without modification from the M1A2 SEP v.3 tank. It may be distinguished from earlier versions by its frontal armour, which has been upgraded and has a slightly different form.
Multiple more gadgets are seen on the tower. Two rectangular casings containing sensors for the AN/VVR-4 laser warning system are installed symmetrically on the front of the side. New sights for the commander and gunner are seen. The meteorological sensors are also replaced.
The bulk of these developments is hidden under the armour. However, the most significant contribution to the total performance boost should come from new equipment installed in the combat compartment.
Under the M1A2 SEP v.4 tank project, the existing tanks of older variants will be updated according to Pentagon objectives. During the upgrades, they will get all features from SEP v.3 and equipment for SEP v.4.
The SEP v.4 package provides the tanks with greater frontal projection armour and bottom protection. It also allowed for the installation of active Trophy and dynamic ARAT protection. The auxiliary power unit is relocated to the rear compartment shielded by armour. A system has been implemented to monitor the state of the units, and additional steps have been adopted to facilitate maintenance and repair.
The M1A2C project facilitates the modernization of communications technology for contemporary troop control loops. A non-contact programmer was added to the firing control system for use with sophisticated projectiles. The programmer automatically inputs the weather data into the fire control. There have been no substantial alterations to views, a weather station, computers, etc.
A radiation detection system has been implemented. New sights boost the commander and gunner’s firing capability, which is the most important aspect of this upgrade. Both sights are upgraded with a 3GEN FLIR, which will be standard on other combat systems. With the update, the Abrams will combine a colour camera, Eye-safe Laser Range Finder, and a cross-platform laser pointer into the commander’s sight to assist multidomain combat. The new station has increased the capacity to gather data on weather conditions. The devices used to manage programmable projectiles will be improved. This will allow the firing of new ammo types with enhanced properties.
The testing will conclude no later than 2024-25. The first shipment of serially modified tanks was scheduled for 2025. Specific plans to upgrade tanks to the M1A2D level have not been revealed as of yet. Under this initiative, it is probable that at least several hundred previous Abrams modifications will be upgraded. The M1 Abrams MBT modernization initiatives aim to increase the service life and performance characteristics so that the equipment can continue operation and retain an acceptable technical level throughout the medium and long term.