Monday, September 28, 2009

Replacing the Abrams

Seven years ago, in the face of eagerness to replace the M-1 with a light vehicle, I wrote that our Abrams main battle tanks wouldn't be obsolete until something better was actually designed. (Go to "Equipping the Objective Force" in the May-June 2002 issue)

The FCS foundered on the perfectly predictable failure of a 19-ton hull to replace the 75-ton Abrams without sacrificing capabilities.

But we're going to replace the 75-ton Abrams--with the 60-ton Abrams:

The Army is exploring the possibility of developing a 60-ton Abrams main battle tank that provides as much protection as the current 75-ton version. ...

Plans to lighten the vehicle complement an existing Army effort to build prototypes of a tougher, more high-tech M1A3 Abrams main battle tank by 2014, with an aim to field it by 2017.

The Army plans to preserve the Abrams through 2050 by improving networking capability and laser-designation, and providing composite armor upgrades.

Give it protection against top-attack rounds and we'll still have the wonder tank already in the field.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more:

The impressive performance of the U.S. M-1 tank in Iraq prompted the U.S. Army to scrap plans to retire the M-1, and replace it with a radical new FCS (Future Combat System) design. None of the proposed FCS designs showed much potential, especially compared to how well the M-1 was doing. Recently the FCS program was abolished, because it was too expensive, and didn't appear to be going anywhere.

So now there's an M1A3 (or M1E3) version of the M1 in the works. This effort has been under study for over two years. It proposes making the 62 ton M-1A2 a few tons lighter, perhaps installing an autoloader, using new fiber optic wiring, and new (and lighter) armor. A new engine and running gear could also save weight. The M-1E3 might get down to 55 tons, or less.

Strategypage uses different weight starting and ending points, so I'm not sure what the deal is. I was surprised by the weight used in the Army Times article, but assumed it must be correct for the latest version.

Also, for some reason the Military Review article of mine linked above is giving me a blank page. I don't know if it is just me. (Link sort of fixed--a direct link doesn't seem to exist)