M1A1/2 Abrams main battle tank is manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). The first M1 tank was produced in 1978, the M1A1 in 1985 and the M1A2 in 1986.
The first M1 Abrams battle tanks were delivered to the US Army in 1980. A total of 3,273 M1 tanks were produced for the US Army, 4,796 M1A1 tanks were built for the US Army, 221 for the US Marines and 880 co-produced with Egypt.
For the M1A2 upgrade programme, more than 600 M1 Abrams tanks were upgraded to M1A2 configuration at the Lima Army tank plant between 1996 and 2001. Deliveries began in 1998.
M1A1 / M1A2 Abrams orders and deliveries
In March 2004, the Australian Army announced the purchase of 59 US Army M1A1 tanks to enter service from 2007. The contract was signed in November 2005 and the first five were handed over in February 2006 at GDLS in Lima, Ohio.
The first 18 tanks were delivered to the Australian Army at the School of Armour in Victoria in September 2006. The remaining 41, to be based in Darwin, were delivered in March 2007.
In June 2006, Saudi Arabia requested the foreign military sale of 58 M1A1 tanks and the upgrade of these and the 315 M1A2 already in the Saudi inventory to the M1A2S configuration. The upgrade involves rebuilding to a ‘like new’ condition, similar to the US Army Abrams integrated management programme (AIM).
In August 2007, Egypt requested the $1.32bn foreign military sale of an additional 125 M1A1 tanks, which would bring the country’s fleet to 1,005 M1A1 tanks.
Egypt also requested 125 M256 armament systems, 125 M2 50-calibre machine guns, 250 M240 7.62mm machine guns, 125 AGT-1500 M1A1 series tank engines and transmissions, and 120mm test cartridges. It also requested spare and repair parts, maintenance, support equipment, special tool and test equipment, personnel training and equipment, publications and technical documentation, as well as US government and contractor engineering and logistics support services.
GDLS was awarded a $349m contract in January 2008 for the production of 125 M1A1 tank kits under the tenth increment of the Egyptian co-production programme. Deliveries began in April 2009.
In July 2008, the Iraqi Government requested the sale of 140 M1A1 tanks to be upgraded to the M1A1M configuration. The Iraqi Army received the final shipment of five M1A1 Abrams tanks in August 2011.
In February 2009, the US Army TACOM life-cycle management command (TACOM LCMC) awarded GDLS a multiyear contract worth $81m to upgrade 30 M1 Abram tanks to M1A2 systems enhancement package version 2 (SEPv2) configuration.
In March 2009, the TACOM LCMC awarded a $33m contract to GDLS for long-lead materials to produce 140 M1A1 SA (situational awareness) tanks for the Iraq programme. The tanks are fitted with FLIR thermal site, tank urban survivability kit (TUSK) enhancements and a driver’s vision-enhancing thermal viewer.
A $45m contract was signed in July 2009 under the Egyptian tank co-production programme. As part of the contract, GDLS provided technical assistance and equipment to M1A1 tanks at the Egyptian tank plant.
Honeywell is improving the performance of the AGT 1500 engines of M1 Abrams tanks under a one-year extension contract awarded by the US Army in August 2009. The company worked with the army on the total integrated engine revitalisation (TIGER) programme of about 750 engines. The value of the fourth-year contract is around $300m, with the total contract value amounting to $1.4bn.
In October 2009, GDLS was awarded a $58m contract by the US Army for providing systems technical support (STS) for the Abrams tank.
In December 2009, GDLS received a $17.6m contract from Saudi Arabia for the purchase of long-lead materials used for converting 15 M1A2 Abrams tanks to M1A2S tanks.
The US Army TACOM LCMC awarded a $37m contract to GDLS in March 2010 for providing STS services for the Abrams tanks. The work includes identifying improvements and replacing obsolete parts of the tanks.
In February 2010, GDLS awarded $18m contract to Northrop Grumman to supply LRS-2000 rate sensor assembly units for the stabilised commander’s weapon station (SCWS) on the US Army M1A1 Abrams tank. The deliveries began in October 2011.
The sensor increases soldier safety and effectiveness in urban areas. It also enables soldiers to fire the tank’s machine gun from inside the armoured vehicle.
The US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) awarded a $9.5m contract to GDLS for providing spares in support of Abrams battle tanks in April 2013. GDLS secured a $56m contract modification in September 2013 to continue logistics and basic life cycle-support services to M1A1 Abrams tanks in service with Iraqi forces. The contract related works were completed in October 2013.
The US Army TACOM LCMC, on behalf of the Royal Saudi Land Forces, awarded a $187.5m contract to GDLS in September 2013, to upgrade 44 M1A1 and 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks to the Saudi M1A2 (M1A2S) configuration.
GDLS received a $99.7m contract from the US Army TACOM LCMC on behalf of the Royal Saudi Land Forces for the procurement and production of Saudi M1A2 (M1A2S) Abrams
tanks. The contract awarded in December 2014, extends work started in 2008 to update M1A1 and M1A2 tanks to the M1A2S configuration.
The US Army TACOM LCMC on behalf of Morocco awarded a $358m contract to GDLS in September 2015 to refurbish and upgrade 150 M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A1 SA configuration, under FMS.
GDL won a $2.6bn contract from the US Army to upgrade up to 786 M1A1 Abrams to the newly configured M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 3, in December 2017.
The US Government approved a potential sale of 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and other equipment to Taiwan in July 2019.
M1A2 system enhancement package (SEP/SEP v2/SEP v3)
In February 2001, GDLS were contracted to supply 240 M1A2 tanks with a system enhancement package (SEP) by 2004. The M1A2 SEP contains an embedded version of the US Army’s Force XXI command and control architecture, new Raytheon commander’s independent thermal viewer (CITV) with second-generation thermal imager, commander’s display for digital colour terrain maps, DRS Technologies second-generation GEN II TIS thermal imaging gunner’s sight with increased range, driver’s integrated display and thermal management system.
The US Army decided to cancel future production of the M1A2 SEP from FY2004, but in June 2005 ordered the upgrade of a further 60 M1A2 tanks to the SEP configuration. A further 60 were ordered in August 2006, plus 180 in November 2006.
Under the firepower enhancement package (FEP), DRS Technologies was also awarded a contract for the GEN II TIS to upgrade US Marine Corps M1A1 tanks. GEN II TIS is based on the 480×4 SADA (standard advanced dewar assembly) detector.
The FEP also includes an eyesafe laser range finder, north-finding module and precision lightweight global positioning receiver, which provide targeting solutions for the new far target locate (FTL) function. FTL gives accurate targeting data to a range of 8,000m with a CEP (circular error of probability) of less than 35m.
In November 2007, General Dynamics was awarded a contract for the upgrade of 240 M1A2 SEP version one tanks to the version two configuration which has improved sights, displays and a tank-infantry phone. The first was ready in October 2008 and the work was completed in September 2009.
In 2008, Saudi Arabia awarded a $58m contract to GDLS to design, develop, convert, implement and test a hybrid configuration of the M1A1, M1A2 and M1A2 SEP tank variants.
In February 2008, General Dynamics was awarded a multiyear contract to upgrade to SEP Version Two (V2) configuration the remaining 435 M1A1 tanks in the US Army inventory. A $614m contract to upgrade 235 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks to the SEP V2 configuration was awarded in August 2008.
In February 2014, GDLS received a $72.7m contract from the US Army TACOM LCMC to upgrade 12 M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEPV2 configuration. The contract was
awarded as part of the agreement signed in February 2008, which allows upgrade of 435 M1A1 tanks.
The US Army TACOM LCMC awarded a $49.7m contract to GDLS in February 2015 to upgrade M1A1 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEPv2 configuration. GDLS secured a $92.2m contract modification to upgrade M1A2 SEPv2 tanks to the M1A2 SEPv3 configuration in December 2015.
The US Army placed orders with GDLS for the upgrade of 100 M1A1 Abrams to M1A2 SEPv3 configuration in July 2018. The US Army has awarded a $714m contract to GDLS to upgrade 174 M1A1 Abrams tanks to M1A2 SEPv3 configuration in January 2019. The US Army has ordered more than three brigades of M1A2 SEPv3 tanks, taking the number of tanks ordered in 2018 to 274.
In June 2004, DRS Technologies was awarded a contract to provide systems including rugged appliqué computers for the M1A2 Abrams tanks (and M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles) as part of the US Army’s Force XXI battle command, brigade and below (FBCB2) programme. FBCB2 is a digital battle command information system which provides enhanced interoperability and situational awareness from brigade to individual soldier that will be used in conjunction with the army’s tactical internet.
M1 Abrams main battle tank armament
The main armament is the 120mm M256 smoothbore gun, developed by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH of Germany. The 120mm gun fires the following ammunition – M865 TPCSDS-T and M831 TP-T training rounds, the M8300 HEAT-MP-T and the M829 APFSDS-T which includes a depleted uranium penetrator. Textron Systems provides the Cadillac Gage gun turret drive stabilisation system.
The commander has a 12.7mm Browning M2 machine gun and the loader has a 7.62mm M240 machine gun. A 7.62mm M240 machine gun is also mounted coaxially on the right-hand side of the main armament.
Depleted uranium armour
The M1A1 main battle tank incorporates steel-encased depleted uranium armour. Armour bulkheads separate the crew compartment from the fuel tanks.
The top panels of the tank are designed to blow outwards in the event of penetration by a HEAT projectile. The tank is protected against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare.
One L8A1 six-barrelled smoke grenade discharger is fitted on each side of the turret. A smoke screen can also be laid by an engine-operated system.
In August 2006, GDLS was awarded a contract to produce 505 tank urban survivability kits (TUSK) for the US Army Abrams tanks.
TUSK includes add-on reactive armour tiles, loader’s armour gun shield (LAGS), tank infantry phone (TIP), Raytheon loader’s thermal weapon sight with Rockwell Collins head-mounted display and BAE Systems thermal driver’s rear-view camera (DRVC). TUSK entered service on M1A1 / M1A2 tanks in late 2007 and was deployed to Iraq.
Australian M1A1 tanks are fitted with Saab Barracuda multispectral camouflage systems, which reduce the tank’s visual, radar and infra-red signature.
Fire control and observation
The commander’s station is equipped with six periscopes, providing a 360° view. The Raytheon commander’s independent thermal viewer (CITV) provides the commander with independent stabilised day and night vision with a 360° view, automatic sector scanning, automatic target cueing of the gunner’s sight and back-up fire control.
M1A2 Abrams tank has a two-axis Raytheon gunner’s primary sight – line of sight (GPS-LOS), which increases the first round hit probability by providing faster target acquisition and improved gun pointing.
The thermal imaging system (TIS) has a magnification of ×10 narrow field of view and ×3 wide field of view. The thermal image is displayed in the eyepiece of the gunner’s sight together with the range measurement from a laser range finder.
The Northrop Grumman (formerly Litton) Laser Systems eyesafe laser range finder (ELRF) has a range accuracy to within 10m and target discrimination of 20m. The gunner also has a Kollmorgen Model 939 auxiliary sight with magnification ×8 and field of view 8°.
The digital fire control computer is supplied by General Dynamics – Canada (formerly Computing Devices Canada).
The fire control computer automatically calculates the fire control solution based on the lead angle measurement, bend of the gun measured by the muzzle reference system, velocity measurement from a wind sensor on the roof of the turret and data from a pendulum static cant sensor located at the centre of the turret roof.Data on ammunition type, temperature and barometric pressure is manually inputted by the operator
The driver has either three observation periscopes or two periscopes on either side and a central image intensifying periscope for night vision. The periscopes provide 120° field of view.
The DRS Technologies driver’s vision enhancer (DVE), AN/VSS-5, is based on a 328×245 element uncooled infra-red detector array, operating in the 7.5 to 13 micron waveband. A Raytheon driver’s thermal viewer, AN/VAS-3, is installed on the M1A2 Abrams tanks for Kuwait.
The M1 is equipped with a Honeywell AGT 1500 gas turbine engine. The Allison X-1100-3B transmission provides four forward and two reverse gears.
The US Army has selected Honeywell International Engines and Systems and General Electric to develop a new LV100-5 gas turbine engine for the M1A2. The new engine is lighter and smaller with rapid acceleration, quieter running and no visible exhaust.