The legendary American M1A2 Abrams tanks will soon be in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The delivery to Ukraine became known after U.S. President Joe Biden made an address in which he confirmed that the United States had decided to provide 31 M1 Abrams tanks to our country. This number is exactly equal to one Ukrainian tank battalion.
Joe Biden said: “Today, I am announcing that the United States is transferring 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. We are sending an entire battalion of these tanks to Ukraine. This was recommended by Defense Secretary Austin. This is necessary to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities. Abrams tanks are among the most advanced in the world. They are very difficult to operate and maintain. We will train the Ukrainian military and start doing so immediately. It will take time to deliver the tanks.”
In addition, the United States will provide 8 repair and recovery vehicles to service the tanks. It is also very important that the U.S. military will immediately start a training program for Ukrainian tankers.
So, today we will take a closer look at this American tank.
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What is interesting about the M1A2 Abrams?
The Abrams tank is the most advanced main battle tank (MBT) ever produced by the United States. It is the end result of decades of painstaking development and testing. The key to the Abrams’ success and longevity has been to update and improve its weapons and information systems. Production of the M1A2 Abrams began in 1990. Outwardly, it is similar to its predecessor – the updates mainly concerned the commander’s weapon station, an independent thermal imager for the commander, and an improved information system (IVIS).
IVIS connects support units and allows the commander to track movement, identify enemy targets and disseminate information quickly. IVIS provides automatic and continuous information exchange with other crews. Using the information provided by the onboard positioning/navigation system (POSNAV), the unit commander can automatically track the location and movement of subordinate elements without the participation of their crews. In addition, enemy position information can be identified, displayed and disseminated, and reports and artillery requests can be automatically formatted, processed and transmitted. Operational measures and orders can be quickly disseminated through the IVIS system.
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M1A2 Abrams variants
- M1A2 Abrams: the first version of the tank, which, in fact, was just an improved version of the M1A1
- M1A2 Abrams SEP: this version has updated components of the 3rd generation depleted uranium armor with graphite coating (240 new tanks of this version were produced for the US armed forces, in addition, 300 M1A2s upgraded to the M1A2SEP version were sent to service, as well as a number of updated basic M1 and M1IPs and 400 oldest M1A1s upgraded to M1A2SEPs were delivered to Pentagon bases around the world).
- M1A2 Abrams SEP V2: This upgrade includes improved displays, sights, power, and a telephone for the tank infantry. It is the most technologically advanced Abrams tank available, and its system is capable of being upgraded to ensure compatibility with future Army combat systems.
- M1A2 Abrams SEP V3 or M1A2C: This is an upgraded version of the M1A2 SEPV v2, the US Army’s main battle tank, which has been modernized in the areas of survivability, maintainability, efficiency and networking capabilities. This is the version that was delivered to Poland, and there are high hopes that it will come to Ukraine. That is why I decided to pay more attention to this version.
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M1A2 Abrams SEP V3 or M1A2C
This modification of the OBT was first presented in October 2015 at the AUSA defense exhibition in Washington, DC. Nine prototypes have been available since October 2015, and seven were planned to be tested by the US Army. As expected, General Dynamics Land Systems completed the trial tests in the spring of 2015 and then received approval from the US Army to begin production. The main mission of the M1A2 System Enhancement Package (SEP) V3 Abrams is to provide mobile, protected firepower for combined arms maneuver and security over a large area. Abrams is capable of engaging the enemy in any weather, day or night, on a multi-dimensional, non-linear battlefield, using firepower, maneuverability and impact.
The Abrams M1A2 SEP V3 is continually being improved and updated with the addition of new technologies, including Ammunition DataLink (ADL), Improved Forward-Looking Infrared (IFLIR) and Low Profile (LP), the Remote Operated Weapon System (CROWS) and improved 120mm ammunition. According to General Dynamics Land Systems representative Tim Reese, the M1A2 SEP v3 is the most advanced version of the Abrams main battle tank, which entered service with the US Armed Forces in 2017. The M1A2 SEP v3 is easily recognizable because it has a small exhaust for a new generator at the rear left. In September 2018, it was announced that the M1A2 SEPv3 and M1A2 SEPv4 variants were renamed M1A2C and M1A2D.
The US military received the newest version of the M1A2C tank (SEP v.3) at Fort Hood, Texas, on December 20, 2020. In December 2020, General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. of Sterling Heights, Michigan, received a $4,620 million fixed-price incentive contract for the production of Abrams M1A2 SEP v3 main battle tanks. In October 2021, Poland confirmed its intention to purchase 250 M1A2 SEP V3 main battle tanks from the United States, which will be put into service with the 18th Mechanized Division of the Polish Army.
In December 2021, it was announced that Australia had confirmed the purchase of 75 M1A2 SEPV V3s. On February 17, 2022, the US Department of State decided to approve the sale of M1A2 SEP v3 main battle tanks and support equipment to Poland for approximately $6.0 billion. On January 5, 2023, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division received a modernized M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tank in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Perhaps very soon we will see these tanks in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
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Strict design and reliable protection
To improve the protection of tanks and their crews during battles with enemies using improvised explosive devices and Soviet and Russian RPGs, a depleted uranium mesh is placed in the frontal part of the tank’s hull and turret. The inside of the turret is additionally protected by a Kevlar lining.
The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank also has depleted uranium steel armor. The armor consists of layers of ceramic plates in a metal matrix, which are mounted on a conventional steel armor plate. Armored partitions separate the combat compartment from the fuel tanks. The upper panels of the fuel tank are designed to protect against the penetration of a heat-seeking projectile from the outside.
The main battle tank is protected against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons. This tank is able to withstand not only enemy tanks, such as T-90s, in a head-on battle, but is also protected from hits from anti-tank systems. It proved itself well during the events in Iraq.
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Modern weapons M1A2 Abrams
The main armament of the M1A2 Abrams includes the 120-mm smoothbore M256 gun, developed by Rheinmetall and manufactured under license in the United States. This gun is manually loaded. This gun loading system is more reliable than the automatic loading system used on some other tanks. The M1A2 Abrams has an advanced fire control system. The range of effective fire is over 4 km. The tank has a target acquisition system that gives it the capability of a so-called “hunter-killer”. Many tanks produced in the early 90s do not have this capability.
In addition, the tank is equipped with twin 7.62mm M240 machine guns mounted to the right of the main gun and similar weapons mounted on the left side of the turret, with an elevation angle of -30° to +65° and a total rotation of 265º. The armament system of the charging hatch is now protected by 360° armor plates. On both sides of the turret, the tank is equipped with six-barreled L8A1 smoke grenade launchers. The smoke screen can also be created by an engine-driven system.
The M1A2 Abrams SEP V3 will be able to fire the fifth generation M829E4 anti-tank projectile. This new projectile provides the ability to engage heavy armor at long ranges. It uses a depleted uranium penetrator to engage targets equipped with AERA (Advanced Explosive Reactive Armor) and APS (Active Protection Systems) armor. The Advanced Multipurpose Projectile is a line-of-sight munition with three modes of operation: point detonation, delayed detonation, and airborne explosion.
This important capability, which is essential in urban environments, allows the tank crew to engage anti-tank guided missile teams at a distance of 50 to 2,000 meters with a precise, lethal airborne explosion. The AMP’s point and delay modes allow it to clear obstacles and penetrate walls and bunkers. The AMP projectile also reduces the logistics burden as it replaces four existing projectiles (M830 high-explosive, M803A1 HEAT, M1028 and M908 HE-OR).
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Fire control system
The tank is equipped with a low-profile CROW (Common Remotely Operated Weapon System) fire control system. This improves the tank commander’s situational awareness. This system significantly reduces the profile of the weapon, expanding the field of view with both open and closed hatch. In addition, the CROWS fire control system is equipped with an updated daytime camera that uses picture-in-picture technology to combine different viewing angles, which increases the viewing scene by 340 percent.
The M1A2 Abrams tank has a Raytheon dual-axis gunner’s main sight – line of sight (GPS-LOS), which increases the probability of a first-shot hit by providing faster target detection and improved gun guidance.
The thermal imaging system (TIS) has a magnification of ×10 in the narrow field of view and ×3 in the wide field of view. The thermal imager is displayed in the gunner’s sight eyepiece along with the range measurement data from the laser rangefinder.
The Northrop Grumman (formerly Litton) Laser Systems eye-safe laser rangefinder (ELRF) has a range accuracy of 10 meters and a target resolution of 20 meters. The gunner also has a Kollmorgen Model 939 auxiliary sight with eight times magnification and a viewing angle of 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 parameters based on the measurement of the angle of advance, gun curvature, wind speed measurement from the wind sensor and data from the static pendulum tilt sensor located on the turret roof. Ammunition type, temperature, and barometric pressure are entered manually by the operator.
The driver has either three viewing periscopes or two periscopes on either side and a center periscope to enhance the image for night vision. The periscopes provide a viewing angle of 120°.
The DRS Technologies AN/VSS-5 Driver Vision Enhancer (DVE) is based on an uncooled 328×245 element infrared detector array operating in the 7.5-13 micron wavelength range. The M1A2 Abrams tanks for Kuwait are equipped with Raytheon’s AN/VAS-3 driver’s thermal imager.
The tank is also equipped with the Ammunition DataLink (ADL) system to provide communication with the platform’s fire control system. The ADL consists of a modified bolt, an updated fire control electronics unit and updated software.
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Abrams tank gas turbine engine
Unlike the Leopard 2, the M1A2 Abrams tank is equipped with the Avco Lycoming (now Honeywell) AGT1500 gas turbine engine, which has a capacity of 1500 hp. This versatile engine can run on any type of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel or kerosene. Suspension with seven support rollers on each side with swivel shock absorbers at the first, second and seventh support positions. The drive sprocket is located at the rear and the tensioner at the front, with two return rollers.
The Avco Lycoming AGT1500 has impressive performance, and it is quite compact considering its power. So, despite the fact that the Abrams tank is heavy and bulky, it is surprisingly maneuverable. It is faster than many other tanks and has excellent cross-country ability. In addition, the engine is extremely quiet. This feature has even earned the Abrams the nickname “whispering death”. Its gas turbine engine has service intervals much longer than diesel engines, but it is a rather complicated unit to maintain and has a very high fuel consumption compared to diesel engines. But the Avco Lycoming AGT1500 can be replaced with a new one in the field within 30 minutes.
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Additional equipment M1A2 Abrams
The updated version of the M1A2 Abrams SEP V3 tank is equipped with a new advanced electronic warfare system against all improvised explosive devices. This tank can be equipped with an improved infrared system (IFLIR) for target identification. The IFLIR uses long- and medium-wave infrared technology in both the gunner’s main sight and the commander’s independent thermal imager.
The IFLIR will provide four fields of view (FOVs) displayed on high-definition displays, which significantly improves target detection, identification and engagement times (compared to the current second-generation FLIR) in all conditions, including fog, smoke screens or dust storms. This version also features all the equipment and combat capabilities of the previous version. In October 2019, Leonardo DRS, Inc. and Israeli company RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. (RAFAEL) announced that they had delivered the first Trophy Active Protection Systems (APS) to protect the US Army’s M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks from a variety of anti-tank threats.
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Technical characteristics of the M1A2 Abrams
- Dimensions: length 9.77 m; width 3.7 m; height 2.4 m
- Armor: standard spaced multi-layer armor, improved armor protection over the front of the turret, the inside of the turret is equipped with additional protection, new armor package for the hull and turret for increased protection
- Armament: 120-mm M256 smoothbore gun, twin 7.62-mm M240 MG machine gun, CROWS II remote-controlled weapon station with 12.7-mm machine gun, 7.62-mm M240 machine gun
- Weight: in combat condition 73.6 tons
- Maximum speed: 68 km/h
- Operational range: 425 km
- Місткість: 4 члени екіпажу (командир, навідник, заряджальник та водій)
- Додаткове обладнання: система інфрачервоного прицілу другого покоління, допоміжне живлення, кольорові дисплеї з високою роздільною здатністю, покращений інфрачервоний огляд.
Of course, everyone is interested in the most important question – how much does an Abrams tank cost? It is difficult to say for sure, because it all depends on the modification. However, there is information on the Internet that in 2012 the price for one tank was $8.58 million.
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Why the supply of Abrams tanks is so important for Ukraine
Of course, the most important aspect is the trust of our Western partners, in particular, the United States. Now we can see for sure that no one is going to leave Ukraine alone with Russia. We have been helped, are being helped, and will continue to be helped until we have a complete victory over the Russian invaders.
If the tanks arrive in Ukraine in the next few months, they can be used by Ukraine to plan a new counteroffensive. Given the flat terrain in eastern and southern Ukraine, they could lead our counteroffensive.
The delay in sending the tanks to Ukraine is part of the unjustified caution of the United States and Germany in arming Ukraine. Moscow’s well-orchestrated public opinion operation to convince everyone that any delivery of advanced weapons could prompt Putin to escalate to nuclear weapons has kept the West from providing Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defeat the Russians on the battlefield more quickly. In fact, the U.S. decision to send Abrams tanks under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative means that the delivery will take place many months from now, not in time for the Ukrainian offensive this year.
Tanks are a very important factor in increasing the combat capability of the Ukrainian armed forces, but they are not the most important factor. What Ukraine needs most now to stop Moscow’s current operations in Donbas and Zaporizhzhia is long-range artillery and missiles with a range of up to three hundred kilometers.
We believe in our defenders. The invaders will not escape from retribution. Death to the enemies! Glory to the Armed Forces! Glory to Ukraine!
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