The U.S. military has disclosed details on the development of an improved variant of America’s sole main battle tank that considered the best in the world.
The annual report issued by the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) has revealed fresh details of the M1A2 Systems Engineering Plan (SEP) version 3 (v3) main battle tank program.
The M1A2 SEP v3 would be almost unrecognizable to the tankers who served on its earliest incarnation. The new version could boast of improved fire control electronics mean the SEPv3’s gun can shoot faster and more accurately; the engine, drivetrain, and tracks have been updated for higher performance and to support the platform’s weight increase; it may even sport hubcaps and road arms manufactured by way of 3D printing.
The upgrades also include survivability enhancements including Next Evolution and advanced armor and reduction in vulnerability to Improvised explosive device (IED) threats.
According to the report, DOT&E approved an updated Abrams M1A2 SEP v3 Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) on December 28, 2018. The updated TEMP included revisions to planned Production Qualification Test events and the Follow-on operational Test and Evaluation scope.
Also added that in Fiscal Year 19, the Army concluded the M1A2 SEPv3 full-up system-level live fire testing. To complete the survivability assessment of the M1A2 SEPv3, the Army needs to execute the remaining live fire test series focused on addressing combat-induced vulnerabilities of stored ammunition and the modeling and simulation (M&S) effort focused on characterizing armor effectiveness across the operational envelope.
The Army expects to complete the M1A2 SEPv3 Live Fire Test and Evaluation program in the first quarter of FY20.
In FY19, the Army completed Full-Up, System-Level (FUSL) testing to assess the survivability of a combat-ready tank against IEDs, mines, and direct- and indirect-fire. The FUSL test series included 20 tests on 3 production-representative tanks.
Ammunition Compartment testing began in the fourth quarter of FY19 and will complete in 1Q FY20. These tests examine threats that perforate the tank armor and strike the ammunition compartment to assess the reaction of the stowed ammunition, and any resulting impacts to the crew.
The Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 survivability evaluation across operational engagement conditions will depend on live fire test data and models and simulations data. The Army is working on the validation and verification of the models and simulations tools critical to this evaluation.