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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Meet the Army’s M1A2 SEPv4 Abrams: It Might Be the Best Tank Ever

M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams. Image: Creative Commons.

M1A2 SEPv4 Abrams: The Best Tank Ever? Just when you thought the U.S. Abrams M1A2 main battle tank (MBT) couldn’t get any better – well, it’s getting better. The latest M1A2 SEP version 4 (SEPv4) boasts a targeting system that allows the crew to engage enemy tanks and armored personnel carriers from even farther away. 

The upgrade is surprisingly made up of a forward-looking infrared (3GEN FLIR) system. This incorporates a color camera and laser range finder, plus a laser pointer to engage multiple targets. You just can’t beat the Abrams platform because it keeps on ticking with an almost unlimited number of upgrades since its inception in the late 1970s as the XM1 original.

M1A2 SEPv4 Abrams: A Closer Look at the Details of the Upgrade Package

The defense contractor in charge of the system enhanced package (SEP) update, General Dynamics Land Systems, won an additional contract in 2021. The original SEPv4 contract came out in 2017. The latest work will be comprised of installing new training software and better cybersecurity capabilities. The crew will also use the Mounted Family of Computing Systems tablet from Leonardo DRS that acts like an “armored iPad.” Other computer features will also be installed.

The Earlier Version Three SEP Set the Stage

General Dynamics already connected the SEPv3 upgrade that provided “additional electrical power from an auxiliary power unit, network upgrades, stronger armor for greater protection, and ammo data link to interface with advanced ammunition and reduced maintenance strain,” according to the corporate website.

Defeat the Enemy in Any Weather

Testing for the latest package began in 2021. The SEPv4 upgrading process will continue through 2023 and the plan is to have the tank ready to go with the new hardware and software by 2025. The targeting system will better engage targets in adverse weather. The new kit will act as an “on-board meteorologist.” The 120mm gun will be able to fire diverse kinds of ammunition for more efficient gunnery. describes this update as a “more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose ammunition (AMP), integrating many rounds into one 120mm round.” The gunner and commander’s sights will also be improved.

Don’t Forget Just How Powerful the Abrams Platform Is

The underlying Abrams platform is still ready and able for combat. It can hit speeds of 42 miles per hour on roads and 30 miles per hour cross country. The Abrams M1A2 hunter-killer has a range of 265 miles with its 1500 horsepower gas turbine engine. It carries 42 rounds for its four-soldier crew. The weapons include a 7.62 M240 coaxial machine gun and a .50 caliber M2 machine gun.

Can’t Wait for the FLIR

The SEPv4 upgrade means the United States will have one of the most modern tanks in the world. It gives the crew unmatched lethality and survivability. The neatest upgrade is probably the FLIR targeting with laser designating features. It will be difficult for the gunner to miss a target with this system. The package will be worth the wait for the army and shows the service branch is serious about making sure the Abrams is here to stay. 

New Use Cases Imagined for the M1A2 SEPv4 Abrams

New upgrades after the current package may include  360-degree sensors and the ability to jam enemy anti-tank missiles. The Abrams could someday be the “quarterback” for robots or other types of unmanned vehicles. The only thing holding the Abrams back is its 60-ton weight which doesn’t allow it to cross all the bridges in Europe. So, weight reduction is something that engineers and designers may need to incorporate in future upgrades.

Until then, the Abrams will continue to serve the U.S. military in many different types of future wars. 

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.