In 2017, the US Army ordered a serial upgrade of the existing Abrams tanks according to the latest project M1A2 SEP v. 3 or M1A2C. In May last year, the first tanks in the new configuration entered service with the combat unit. At the same time, the process of checking and fine-tuning the technique continues to this day. Recently it became known about the completion of the next stage of testing, which took place in the harsh conditions of Alaska.
The first experimental tanks M1A2 SEP v.3 appeared in 2015 and, in accordance with the main provisions of the project, were rebuilt from the existing armored vehicles of previous modifications. In the same year, this technique came out for testing, during which the main characteristics were determined and the shortcomings that require attention were identified.
As reported, all or almost all of the test events were carried out at the Yuma Proving Ground in the US. Arizona. There are routes for checking the running characteristics on different terrain and differing landscapes, as well as firing lines for assessing the entire available complex of weapons. The tests were carried out by specialists from the relevant departments of the Ministry of Defense. Servicemen of combat units equipped with "Abrams" were also involved in them.
Full-scale field tests took about two years, and according to their results, the M1A2 SEP v.3 / M1A2C was recognized as suitable for serial production and operation in the army. At the end of 2017, a contract was issued for a mass modernization of existing equipment. Subsequently, the necessary lines were launched at three tank repair factories, and in 2020 the first updated tanks were sent to the troops.
In cold conditions
In January last year, several M1A2C tanks were delivered to the Fort Greeley base (Alaska), where the army's Cold Region Test Center is located. Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC) has all the necessary facilities and sites for running, firing and operational tests of military equipment in the subarctic zone.
Northern tests of "Abrams" lasted more than a year and ended this spring. During this time, the equipment has shown its capabilities to work at different times of the year - taking into account the peculiarities of the climate in Alaska. At the same time, the testers tried to identify flaws and cause breakdowns that are impossible in the Arizona desert at the Yuma test site.
Sea trials in the CRTC were carried out at different times of the year, in a wide range of weather conditions and on different routes. A total of 2,000 miles have been covered. This made it possible to demonstrate the capabilities of the updated power plant and chassis, as well as other systems.
Firing tests were carried out with the execution of several hundred shots - for a long time and in different conditions. Due to this, we checked the operation of weapons and control systems. In addition, the real operational capabilities of the new auxiliary power unit were established.
The purpose of the subarctic tests was to identify deficiencies and problems that cannot be identified in other climates. CRTC coped with this task and found weaknesses in the design of the updated tank. Subsequently, the necessary measures were taken to correct the identified deficiencies.
It is reported about a certain systemic problem that did not allow firing from the main weapon in the cold. The nature of this problem is not specified.Together with the developers of the project, the necessary work was carried out, after which the tank with the corrections was successfully tested. Thus, the army will receive "Abrams", completely ready for combat work in difficult conditions.
The Pentagon reports that the organization of test firing was difficult and led to the modernization of the CRTC test facility. The available shooting ranges did not allow the M1A2C's armament to be fully tested. In this regard, the specialists of the Center had to independently manufacture and assemble a new mobile target and place it on a new remote site.
The bulk of the tests in Alaska took place last year, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Anti-epidemic measures made it difficult to conduct tests, and also worsened the working conditions of the personnel. So, several specialists from the Yuma test site participated in the events, and quarantine did not allow them to return home on time. However, the testers bravely endured all the hardships and limitations, focusing on work.
Not without natural problems. At one of the test stages, the Delta River overflowed and flooded part of the landfill, after which the water froze. Firing positions, various equipment and even a portable toilet were found in the ice. The tanks could continue to work, but for the support wheeled vehicles, such a landscape turned out to be unacceptable and even dangerous. The activities had to be suspended until the ice melted.
Thus, in 2015-21. the upgraded tank M1A2C / M1A2 SEP v.3 has passed the entire range of necessary tests in different conditions and confirmed compliance with the required characteristics. The army is already receiving rebuilt tanks, and based on the results of recent measures, it can be confident that there are no technical and operational problems.
The current modernization work is carried out under a framework contract dated December 2017. It stipulates the delivery of 435 M1A2C tanks, converted from the existing M1A1. To date, there are orders for almost 300 armored vehicles, and the first samples have already been transferred to the army. All planned modernization will take several years and will be completed by the middle of the decade.
Three enterprises are involved in the repair and renovation of armored vehicles. These are the state-owned Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima, as well as two General Dynamics Land Systems plants in Scranton and Tallahassee. The production lines are already up and running and are expected to meet their targets on time, despite the current challenges.
In the course of modernization under the SEP v.3 project, the Abrams tank receives a new auxiliary power unit, placed under the armor, as well as modern means of power distribution. Enhanced ballistic and mine protection is envisaged; the means of protection against remotely controlled explosive devices have been introduced.
The main components of the fighting compartment remain in place, but the fire control system receives new devices and the ability to use promising projectiles for various purposes. The tank is equipped with the JTRS communications complex, which ensures full compatibility with modern tactical control systems. Under a separate contract, armored vehicles will receive active protection systems.
For any climate
Modernization of M1A1 tanks under the M1A2C project will extend the service life of outdated equipment and at the same time improve all its characteristics. Thanks to this, armored vehicles of the older modification will not only continue to serve, but will also become the most effective in the existing tank fleet. This will allow you to get the desired combat capabilities in the shortest possible time, without the need to restore the production of tanks from scratch and with the preservation of other equipment that meets current requirements.
During the tests, which lasted several years, all the real indicators and capabilities of the upgraded tank were established.The last stage of the verification took place in the harsh conditions of Alaska and, despite the difficulties encountered, ended with positive results. Thus, the entire US tank fleet, including the manufactured vehicles of the latest modification, will be able to operate effectively in a wide range of climatic conditions.