General Dynamics [GD] on Dec. 21 closed on a $2.6 billion deal to upgrade nearly 800 M1 Abrams tanks to the most modern configuration.
The fixed-price incentive contract includes upgrading 786 M1A1 main battle tanks to the M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 3 (SEPv3) and a number of M1A1s to M1A2S and M1A2-K configurations, bringing the 1980s-era vehicles up to date.
Saudi Arabia's Abrams tanks are designated M1A2S while Kuwait designated it's Abrams tanks M1A2-K. The contract award does not specify how many tanks GD will build for the two countries.
The Army took delivery of the first six M1A2 SEPv3 tanks In October. The vehicles feature communications, reliability, sustainment, fuel efficiency and armor enhancements.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018 includes $1.1 billion for 85 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks, an increase of $375 million above the president’s initial budget request and addresses a previously unfunded requirement.
General Dynamics already holds two contracts worth a total $580 million for development and integration of improvements within SEPv3 and version four.
Not only is the SEPv3 another in a long line of upgrades the tank has received since its introduction in 1980, it lays the ground work for future performance and lethality enhancements that will keep the tank relevant at least until a next-generation vehicle can replace it, according to officials with the Army’s Ground Combat Systems program office.
Ground Combat Systems (GCS) Program Executive Officer (PEO) Maj. Gen. David Bassett has said the SEPv3 configuration is, “hands-down, a better tank.”
The Army let a $270 million contract to General Dynamics for 45 M1A2 SEPv3 variants in fiscal 2016 and received the first six upgraded tanks on Oct. 4. The service is authorized to make upgrades to 500 M1A2 SEPv2 tanks.
The SEPv3 will replace the M1A2 SEPv2 which has been in production since 2005. In 2011, PEO GCS was directed by the Army to execute engineering change proposals to restore lost capability and allow the capacity for the insertion of new technologies.
The M1A2 SEPv3 improvements include introduction of the joint tactical radio system and improved power generation and distribution with an increased margin to accept future technologies, counter remote-control improvised bomb electronic warfare capability, ammunition data link to program the M829A4 Advanced Kinetic Energy and Advanced Multi-Purpose rounds, an auxiliary power unit to power onboard systems without running the engine, and armor upgrades.
With the SEPv3 as a foundation, the Army will move on to upgrading those tanks to SEPv4, which is the lethality corollary to the previous automotive enhancements. The key technology is a sight upgrade to third-generation forward-looking infrared.