Army Launches M1E3 Tank Development, Cancels M1 Abrams Upgrade Program

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U.S. Army officials are cancelling their current upgrade plans for the M1 Abrams main battle tank in favor of a more significant modernization effort, the service announced last week. The Army will end the M1A2 System Enhancement Package version 4 program and develop the M1E3 Abrams instead, according to a Sept. 6 announcement.

The Abrams Main Battle Tank is a full-tracked, low-profile, land-combat assault weapon that enables soldiers to dominate their adversaries through lethal firepower, unparalleled survivability and agile maneuvering. It closes with and destroys the enemy using mobility, firepower and shock effect.

In its announcement, the Army said the decision was driven by years of testing, soldier feedback and "maturing technology." General Dynamics Land Systems is the prime contractor for the Abrams tank.

“The Abrams Tank can no longer grow its capabilities without adding weight, and we need to reduce its logistical footprint," said Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems. “The war in Ukraine has highlighted a critical need for integrated protections for Soldiers, built from within instead of adding on.”

The development of the M1E3 Abrams will include the best features of the M1A2 SEPv4 and will comply with the latest modular open systems architecture standards, allowing quicker technology upgrades and requiring fewer resources. This will enable the Army and its commercial partners to design a more survivable, lighter tank that will be more effective on the battlefield at initial fielding, and easier to upgrade in the future.

The modernization will enhance the efficacy and maneuverability of armored brigade combat teams in conflicts across the globe through a reduced sustainment footprint and increased operational and tactical mobility, according to the Army.

The Army will continue to produce the M1A2 SEPv3 at a reduced rate until production transitions to the M1E3 Abrams, and the Army will carry technologies forward into the SEPv4 Abrams modernization effort. As longer-range threats increase in both lethality and survivability, the M1E3 Abrams will be able to defeat those threats, according to the Army.

“The M1E3 Abrams nomenclature is a return to the Army’s standard use of its type classification and nomenclature system for our combat vehicle fleet,” said Dean. “The ‘E’ designation represents an engineering change to an existing platform that is more significant than a minor modification and serves to designate the prototype and development configuration until the vehicle is formally type classified and receives an ‘A’ designation. This is distinct from the ‘XM’ designation used for new prototype systems.”

Initial operational capability for the M1E3 Abrams is anticipated to occur in early the 2030s.