General Dynamics [GD] Land Systems yesterday said it received an eight-year, $385 million contract for research, development and testing in preparation for the Abrams main battle tank Engineering Change Proposal 1 (ECP1) production.

The contract, issued by Army TACOM Contracting Command, has an initial value of $80 million over 12 months.

There is no tank production work associated with this award. In a separate issue, the Army and Congress have been at loggerheads over Abrams production, with the land service wanting to shut down production from 2013-2017. The Pentagon now is operating under a temporary six-month budget that allows no major program changes. All four of the congressional defense committees had opposed the temporary production shutdown.

The engineering work was planned as part of the land service’s Abrams modernization, and the Army plans to begin low-rate initial production of tanks with ECP1 upgrades in 2017.

The Abrams ECP1 program is an engineering-development effort focused on integrating a group of system improvements into a single upgrade program at this time specifically for the M1A2SEPv2 baseline tank.

The objective of this research-and-development effort is to prepare the Abrams tank to accept additional Army-directed requirements in the future without impacting current vehicle performance.

ECP1 will reengineer internal systems to reduce size, weight and power requirements, creating capacity for additional upgrades in the future. The effort will include miniaturization of electronics; evolving to a Line Replaceable Module (LRM)-based electronics architecture; and increasing electrical capacity through improved power generation, distribution and management.

In addition, when implemented, ECP1 upgrades will improve Abrams’ survivability by enhancing armor and adding the capability to employ current and advanced counter-IED equipment.

“This award shows the Army’s long-term commitment to improving the Abrams tank’s capabilities for the warfighter, while ensuring that platforms are able to integrate planned and future upgrades,” said Donald Kotchman, vice president for Heavy Brigade Combat Teams at General Dynamics Land Systems. “This effort will maintain Abrams’ position as the leading main battle tank in the world.”

Since its initial fielding in 1980, enhancements to the Abrams main battle tank have consumed much of the available space, weight and power capacity on the vehicle. 

The contract will be completed by 2020. The Abrams main battle tank is planned to be an active component of the Army’s fleet through 2050.