The Army’s New M1A2 SEPv4 Abrams Tank Looks Like a Winner: Since it first rolled into service in 1980, the U.S. military’s M1 Abrams has been battle tested in combat around the world. The third-generation main battle tank (MBT), which was named for General Creighton Abrams, was conceived for modern armored ground warfare and is now one of the heaviest tanks in service. It introduced several innovative features, including a computer fire control system, separate ammunition storage in a blow-out compartment, and notably Chobham composite armor. It also is equipped with a multifuel turbine engine that allows it to reach top speeds of 45 mph on the road.
Despite its original capabilities, which were ahead of its time, the M1 has been seen continually upgraded, and by some accounts, the best is yet to come with the M1A2D (M1A2 SEPv4). While it is believed to be the final Abrams variant, the upgrade will see the tank equipped with more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose ammunition (AMP), and a third-generation (3GEN) Forward Looking Infrared Sensors (FLIR) designed for better resolution and increased range.
M1A2 SEPv4: Keeping it Deadly
The 3GEN FLIR has been touted as a cornerstone technology that will provide tank crews the ability to identify enemy targets from farther away than ever before. It will include an upgrade to both sights and will be common with other combat platforms. With the upgrade, the Abrams will integrate a color camera, Eye-safe Laser Range Finder, and a cross-platform laser pointer to facilitate multi-domain battle into the commander’s sight.
In addition to a lethality upgrade, the M1A2 SEPv4 will include fully-embedded training to maximize crew proficiency in the system.
“This program began early enough to onboard any technology the Army deems critical to the future battlefield to include artificial intelligence, autonomy, APS, or advanced sensors,” the service noted.
The M1A2D upgrade will also include improved slip rings that connect the hull and turret hardware, which can reduce the number of necessary “boxes” with equipment that provides communication between the various onboard instruments. Attention is also being paid to ensure that the equipment is properly protected.
Major Enhancements Contacts for the Abrams M1A2 SEPv4
In early 2021, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) was awarded a $25 million contract to add new training software and cybersecurity capabilities to the next generation of the M1 Abrams. This will include the addition of the Abrams Platform Embedded Training System Gate-To-Live-Fire capabilities and fault insertion language.
In addition, Leonardo DRS won a pair of contracts in June 2020, together worth $310 million, to supply the newest MFoCS system, a suite of computers, tablets, and peripherals for vehicles; while GDLS was awarded a contract to design the SEPv4, the next generation of the Abrams tank, in 2017.
The SEPv4 is an upgrade to the Abrams M1A2 SEPv3, which GDLS is currently producing for the Army. GDLS won a $4.6 billion production contract in December for the SEPv3.
*An improved Gunner’s Primary Sight (GPS) with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3GEN FLIR)
*An Improved Laser Range Finder (LRF), and Color Camera
*An improved LRF, laser pointer, and color camera; improved lethality by providing the ability for the fire control system to digitally communicate with the new Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP) Round
*Improved firing accuracy through the installation of a Meteorological Sensor; and improved onboard diagnostics.
The Army plans to begin fielding the Abrams M1A2 SEPv4 in early 2025.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.