US Army Awards General Dynamics Contract for Next-Generation M1E3 Abrams Tank Design

US Army Awards General Dynamics Contract for Next-Generation M1E3 Abrams Tank Design

According to information published by the “Defense News” website on May 31, 2024, the U.S. Army has awarded General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) a contract to begin the preliminary design of the next-generation M1 Abrams tank, designated as the M1E3.

The schedule for the M1E3’s preliminary design and subsequent phases is currently under review within the Army’s acquisition branch. In the interim, the U.S. Army and GDLS are collaborating closely. This partnership aims to meticulously determine the new Abrams variant’s desired features and achievable capabilities, ensuring a comprehensive and effective design.

On September 6, 2023, the U.S. Army made a significant announcement, deciding to “close out the M1A2 SEPv4 effort and develop the M1E3 Abrams.” This decision, explained by Major General Glenn Dean, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, marks a crucial turning point for the Abrams tank. He emphasized that the tank’s capabilities can no longer be enhanced without adding weight, necessitating a reduction in its logistical footprint. The war in Ukraine has underscored the urgent need for integrated protections for soldiers, built from within instead of being added on.

The U.S. Army announcement further detailed that the new platform will incorporate the best features of the M1A2 SEPv4 while adhering to the latest modular open systems architecture standards. This will facilitate quicker technology upgrades and require fewer resources. The goal is to design a more survivable and lighter tank that will be more effective on the battlefield at initial fielding and easier to upgrade in the future.

While the U.S. Army has not yet revealed the specific requirements for the M1E3, a 2019 Army Science Board study on future tanks has reportedly influenced the establishment of the M-1E3 program. This study proposed a $2.9 billion, seven-year program to develop a “fifth-generation combat vehicle” with a host of advanced capabilities. These include a hybrid electric drive, an autoloader and new main gun, advanced munitions such as maneuvering hypersonic and gun-launched anti-tank guided missiles, integrated armor protection, improved command, control, and networking capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI) applications, the ability to pair with robotic vehicles, and masking capabilities to reduce the vehicle’s thermal and electromagnetic signatures. These cutting-edge features promise to revolutionize the capabilities of the M1E3 Abrams tank.

Although formal M1E3 program requirements have not been articulated, the U.S. Army reportedly prioritizes weight reduction and a hybrid electric power drive to reduce logistical demands. In October 2022, GDLS unveiled the AbramsX Technology Demonstrator, featuring reduced weight (10 tons less than the current M-1 Abrams), a hybrid electric diesel engine that is 50% more fuel-efficient than the current Abrams, an unmanned turret reducing the crew from four to three soldiers, enhanced armor to protect against drone-dropped bombs, communication capabilities with unmanned aerial vehicles, and an onboard AI system to alert the crew to long-range threats and prioritize fires against multiple threats.

While the AbramsX may not fulfill all the Army’s eventual requirements for the M1E3, it showcases current tank design capabilities and serves as a benchmark for future development.

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