Why The World’s Best Tank – The American M1 Abrams – Needs An Urgent Replacement?

The US Army’s M1A2 Abrams main battle tank is a major mechanized attack platform with massive amounts of fire-power and an “intimidating” presence when used as a deterrent.

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Built-in the 1980s as part of the Army’s famous Big 5, it is famous for destroying Iraqi T-72 tanks in the Gulf War by using highly accurate, long-range thermal sensors able to destroy targets without being seen.

The oldest tanks in the service haven’t been retired because the M1A2 SEP V3 and emerging V4 variant Abrams is not the same tank as it used to be due to several upgrades. The Abrams are equipped with new, much-higher fidelity, longer-range Forward Looking Infrared Sensors able to find and transmit target information from increasingly longer stand-off ranges.

A sneak peek inside the tank by the US Army in a video published on YouTube shows the Abrams has completely different computing systems than it did at its inception.

While sensor upgrades are quickly being improved exponentially through the use of newer applications of computer processing power and AI-enabled algorithms, previously separated pools of sensor data can now be aggregated, organized, and transmitted much more quickly and efficiently than before.

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However, several images at a three-day U.S. Army workshop, held in early October at the U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center at Detroit Arsenal, show a possibility of a replacement for the long-serving M1 Abrams tank.

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As per the Army, soldiers, along with a team of industrial designers and Subject Matter Experts explored topics “from crew size to unmanned and autonomous considerations” during the workshop.

The army has earlier spent billions but couldn’t build a replacement for the M1s. In another effort called Optionally Manned Tank (OMT) to design a new main battle tank, the Army is looking to build a tank that will probably serve as long as the current M1 Abrams.

As per Kyle Mizokami, defense and security writer, there are three vehicles, presumably concept vehicles for the OMT. The three versions will almost certainly represent small, medium, and heavy versions. Kyle writes that a smaller version could retain a large gun, but carry less ammunition.

“It would also be lighter, allowing it to be carried by aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster III, and substitute traditional heavy tank armor for an active protection system,” he says.

For the medium version, he says it would be in the weight class of the M1A2 Abrams, while a large vehicle would be even bigger, retaining heavy armor to shrug off enemy anti-tank gun rounds and missiles but at the expense of strategic mobility.

More speculations are that the OMT tank will likely be equipped with a larger, more powerful gun than the M256 120-millimeter gun fitted to the M1A2 Abrams.

Another area for improvisation with modern technology is moving up to a 140-millimeter gun designed toward the end of the Cold War that delivered 20 megajoules of energy.

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These are just plans so far and the army may make a decision on how to proceed with OMT in 2023 and could field the new tank in the 2030 timeframe.

Meanwhile, the Abrams equipped with modern technology such as the Trophy Active Protection System, a well-known and successfully tested integrated system using sensors to detect approaching attack munitions such as RPGs or even Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, will continue to serve the army.