It should be recalled that now in service with the United States there are a significant number of M1 Abrams tanks of various modifications, some of which had previously undergone certain upgrades. For example, in recent years, around 1600 combat vehicles have been upgraded by the project M1A2 SEP v.2, which involved the replacement of a number of existing systems and the installation of some new units. One or another development of this project continues to this day: just recently, it became known about equipping tanks of the SEP v.2 version with active protection complexes.
The alleged appearance of the fighting machine FCS MGV
A further development of the existing modernization projects was the new M1A2 SEP v.3. Work on it started a few years ago, and in the fall of 2015, the first experienced new-type tank was introduced. In the future, engineers and military experienced an experienced technique, after which it was decided to launch a serial update machines. A few weeks ago, the developer of the SEP v.3 project spoke about his recent successes.
In mid-September, Ashley Givens, a spokeswoman for General Dynamics Land Systems, said that work was already underway to modernize the first batch of tanks sent by the army. By the end of the month it was planned to complete the update of the first serial tank. In the very near future, five more armored vehicles were to leave the assembly shop. According to E. Givens, in the future, about 1500 tanks will have to be upgraded.
The M1A2 SEP v.3 retrofit project (System Enhancement Package version 3 - “System Enhancement Package, 3 Version”) involves the installation of an auxiliary power unit inside the armored hull, the replacement of fire control equipment, communications and control, provides for a major change in ammunition, and also offers remote use managed combat module. Nevertheless, the relatively old M1A2 with a very limited modernization potential remains at the heart of the updated tank.
The main tanks of the M1 Abrams family, available in the United States Army, are relatively older. The oldest cars remaining in the parts were built in the mid-eighties. The equipment is regularly sent for repairs, and in addition, it is being upgraded in accordance with new projects. According to the calculations of the command, all this allows you to keep on arms even relatively old tanks. Currently, the task of updating the fleet of vehicles is supposed to be solved using the project SEP v.3. In the foreseeable future, it will be replaced by the next program of modernization SEP v.4.
The Pentagon has already ordered the development of a new project for the modernization of existing tanks. Required documentation should be prepared for the beginning of the next decade. In 2021, it is planned to begin testing the first experimental tanks M1A2 SEP v.4. Serial reorganization of equipment starts in two years. In 2025, the upgraded armored vehicles will go into service. The cost and timing of the work, as well as the number of equipment that will be sent to repair, have not yet been clarified.
According to reports, at present the military department and General Dynamics Land Systems are busy shaping the appearance of the tank version of SEP v.4 and have not yet had time to determine the range of necessary improvements. However, some of the most common requirements for such tanks are already known. According to the results of the next update, the Abrams will receive enhanced protection. Combat qualities will be enhanced by creating new ammunition and improving the fire control system. Significant processing will undergo a set of communications.
Modernization projects of existing tanks M1A2 Abrams will allow keeping this equipment in service at least during the twenties. In the future, however, the existing armored vehicles will need to be replaced. Updating existing tanks can not last forever and, at least, is limited by the resource of technology. As a result, the Pentagon already now has to begin working out the general provisions of the future project.
It should be recalled that the task of creating a new tank to replace the existing M1 Abrams is not the first time. In the past, worked out different options for promising armored vehicles, but all these projects did not lead to the desired results. Not so long ago started new work in this direction. According to the available information, while the specialists of the US armed forces are working on the general provisions of the future project.
Specialists of the organization Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), responsible for the creation of new models of land vehicles, are now engaged in research in the field of armored vehicles and are trying to form the optimal look of the future tank. At the moment, general requirements are being formed and different concepts are being considered that allow solving the set tasks.
It is reported that a promising tank will have to enter service no earlier than the end of the twenties, and therefore will be a replacement for the updated M1A2 SEP v.4. As a result, the appearance of such a technique is being worked out taking into account the features of this version of the Abrams. At the same time, the task of specialists is to find ways to improve the basic characteristics while maintaining certain parameters within reasonable limits.
Thus, one of the main problems of the later modifications of the M1A2 is an excessive combat mass, which seriously worsens tactical and strategic mobility. For this reason, the future tank must have special requirements in terms of size and weight. A direct consequence of this will be the use of modern and promising materials: despite the reduction in the mass of the structure, such a tank should be protected, at least, not worse than the machine M1A2 SEP v.4.
The characteristic features of the armed conflicts of recent years make the issue of tank protection particularly relevant. The Pentagon plans to strengthen the protection of the future tank at all angles. Attention will be paid to the sides, aft and bottom. According to recent reports, the construction of a completely new armored hull will use the latest materials, including composites. Due to this, the protection of the future tank, showing the characteristics at the level of armor "Abrams", will be approximately 20% easier.
Own booking will be added by auxiliary systems. On top of the composite armor, you can install blocks of dynamic protection. The possibility of using active protection complexes is also not excluded. The US military has already managed to test such equipment, and, in general, were satisfied.
Curious theses about the armament complex were announced. At one time, the first modification of the M1 Abrams tank was equipped with an 105-mm cannon, which was later replaced with a larger-caliber gun. In the new project, similar approaches should be used, allowing, if necessary, to strengthen the "main caliber" of the tank. In this case, initially the tank of the future, most likely, will be equipped with an 120 mm caliber gun, although it is not possible to install another system in the future.
One of the main methods of improving the combat qualities will be new ammunition of increased power. In the current project M1A2 SEP v.3, new projectiles of various types were introduced, allowing to reduce the range of shots without loss of combat effectiveness. In the future, these products can be developed with appropriate consequences for the general characteristics of the technology.
Experienced tank M1A2 SEP v.3
An obvious way to improve performance is to use more advanced fire control systems that can receive data from on-board communications. Thus, the peculiarities of the development of the onboard complex of radio-electronic means will be directly connected with the course of creating advanced troop control systems.
At the same time, the tank will have to carry a significant number of means of observation and target detection. According to TARDEC, the main role in this area will remain with optical-electronic devices, with which the crew can search for targets at any time of the day. Also, the possibility of using radio-technical and radar detection means is not yet ruled out.
The armament complex will necessarily include additional weaponplaced on a remotely controlled combat module. At the moment, different variants of the module and its equipment are being considered. To attack "soft" targets, it is proposed to use both rifle-caliber machine guns and small-caliber guns.
In recent armed conflicts, American forces had to face a number of serious problems. In particular, the existing equipment was not ready for the existing challenges, and it had to be refined. In this case, in a promising project, it is proposed to provide for free volumes within the protected space that could be used for the installation of units of a particular purpose. There it will be possible to place additional equipment, additional ammunition, etc.
For known reasons, the issue of creating armored vehicles with the maximum degree of automation is currently being actively worked out. It is obvious that certain tasks related to controlling the combat vehicle or data processing in the new project will be assigned to automatic systems. At the same time, American experts cannot yet speak with certainty about the possibility of using an uninhabited fighting compartment served only by mechanisms.
In accordance with current plans, a promising main tank, designed to first supplement and then replace the existing Abrams, will appear no earlier than the second half of the twenties. Such equipment will come into service only in the thirties. This suggests that during the first few years, the production tanks of the new model will be operated in parallel with the updated M1A2 SEP v.4 and SEP v.3, which by that time will approach the maximum service life.
However, so far there are certain grounds for doubts about the possibility of timely and full implementation of existing plans. The fact is that the United States is not the first time planning to create a replacement for tanks M1 Abrams. Since the end of the nineties, a GCV project was being developed that proposed the construction of a combat armored vehicle of up to 30 tonnes armed with an 120-mm gun. Subsequently, the GCV developments were transferred to a similar MGV project, which was developed before 2009. Due to the lack of real success, the second project was closed.
In connection with the temporary rejection of the development of new projects of armored vehicles, the Pentagon was forced to focus on the creation of projects to upgrade existing combat vehicles. In the period from 2017 to 2025, it is supposed to carry out repairs and modernization of tanks under the SEP v.4 project, after which similar works will start as part of a newer project. And only after that the long-awaited resumption of the construction of completely new tanks is possible.
The recent modernization projects of the main tanks M1A2 Abrams, created under the System Enhancement Package, have significantly improved the fighting qualities of existing equipment that no longer fully meets modern requirements. However, existing tanks have limited capacity, and such upgrades cannot continue indefinitely. Understanding this, the Pentagon is making plans to develop an entirely new combat vehicle. To date, TARDEC experts have begun to work out the general concept of the future tank, and have already been able to draw the first conclusions. However, until the advent of a real experienced armored car is far away.
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