WASHINGTON -- Don't be confused when you start seeing new designations for the U.S. Army's M1 Abrams tank. In response to a request from the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee, the Army is renaming the M1A2 System Enhancement Package (SEP) versions 3 and 4 in order to better convey the importance of the upgrades. The M1A2 SEPv3 and M1A2 SEPv4 variants are being renamed to the M1A2C and M1A2D, respectively. The change was outlined in in August 15 memo from Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, according to InsideDefense.
The House Armed Services Committee's markup of the FY19 defense authorization bill expressed concern about the Abrams program nomenclature, arguing that the convoluted naming system of the various upgrades "fails to clearly and concisely convey the significant capability upgrades resident in these efforts." The committee encouraged the Army to change the names of the various upgrade variants as soon as possible.
Deliveries of the latest M1A2C configuration (formerly SEPv3) began in October 2017 as part of a $92.2 million contract awarded to General Dynamics in December 2015 to convert an initial six tanks to the new standard. This configuration offers an ammunition datalink, improved ammunition, an improved forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system, a low-profile common remotely operated weapon system, a new auxiliary power unit, and a new vehicle health management system intended to reduce maintenance costs. In October 2016, the Army also announced plans to buy one brigade set of Trophy active protection systems for tanks prepositioned in Europe.
The Army requested $1.5 billion in FY19 for 135 M1A2C upgrades, a sharp increase over the 20 tanks originally planned for FY19. The number of tanks being upgraded also increased in the outyears, with a further 299 slated for upgrades between FY20 and FY23 via the base budget. That figure will likely grow when taking into account additional tanks that may be upgraded with OCO funding. The Army also requested another $961.6 million for other Abrams improvements, including $617.5 million for survivability enhancement kits.
With delivery of initial M1A2C vehicles underway, work on development of the next M1A2D configuration (formerly SEPv4) begins. General Dynamics Land Systems was awarded a $310.6 million contract modification in August 2017 for the development of seven prototype M1A2D tanks and testing. The new M1A2D configuration will include sensor, lethality, and survivability upgrades. M1A2D production is set to begin in FY23, with fielding taking place by FY25.