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US Army pivoting to new design process for Abrams modernisation

Soldiers fire the army's new M1A2 SEPv3 tank at Fort Cavazos, Texas, on 18 August 2020. (US Army)

After years of upgrading the Abrams M1A2, the US Army wants to try a newbuild for the main battle tank (MBT), officials announced on 6 September.

The effort to develop the M1E3 Abrams – designated with an ‘E' to represent the prototype phase – will replace the upgrade process for the M1A2 system enhancement package version 4 effort, Brigadier General Geoffrey Norman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said in an announcement. A new tank is needed to meet the service's requirements for greater mobility and a reduced sustainment footprint, leaders said.

The Abrams M1E3 is headed for initial operating capability in 2030, before which the service will start buying Abrams SEPv4 at a “reduced rate”, the army said.

The new capability will be lighter and have a shorter logistics tail, according to the announcement. The current tank's challenging sustainment was cited as one reason the US would not provide the capability to Ukraine prior to officials making that determination to send them.

“The war in Ukraine has highlighted a critical need for integrated protections for soldiers, built from within instead of adding on,” said Major General Glenn Dean, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS).

“We appreciate that future battlefields pose new challenges to the tank as we study recent and ongoing conflicts,” said Brig Gen Norman. “We must optimise the Abrams' mobility and survivability” for future conflicts, he added.

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