Over the past decade the only thing that has been able to slow the Army's premier combat vehicle hasn't been enemies on the battlefield, but rather the technological advancements added to the platform. While every vehicle is designed to have Space, Weight, and Power (SWaP) margin for incremental improvements, recent upgrades made to the Abrams M1A2 SEP V2 have left little margin for future improvements.
"The Abrams main battle tank was developed over three decades ago in response to a major Soviet threat. We were fortunate that engineers had the foresight to design in enough SWaP margin to enable us to host new capabilities needed during our recent missions in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. William Brennan, product manager for Abrams.
To help alleviate SWaP constraints, the Army has launched the Abrams Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) program designed to buy back as much SWaP as possible by redesigning and modernizing many elements of the tank. This ECP is a modification to the system that leaves the essential capability unchanged. The Abrams ECP program will help ensure the Army can seamlessly incorporate other programs of record into the Abrams well into the future, without degrading operational performance.
"Right now the electrical power is in short supply on the tank. The centerpiece of the ECP 1 upgrade will be to restore lost power margin through the integration of a larger generator, improved slip ring, battery management system and a new power generation and distribution system," said Brennan.
Other major Abrams ECP upgrades will focus on communications, data transmission and processing, and survivability. The communications upgrade will integrate the Joint Tactical Radio System, or JTRS, and Handheld, Manpack, & Small Form Fit, or HMS, into the Abrams, replacing the current single-channel ground and airborne radio system, known as SINCGARS.
The ability to incorporate the Army's network is also a vital part of the ECP1 effort. To address network requirements the Abrams will integrate a gigabit Ethernet databus to allow greater data processing and transmission. The modified slip ring on the turret will also provide the ability to transmit larger amounts of data into the turret, in addition to providing more power.
"The ECP1 upgrade will posture the tank to accept the Army network components in the near term, while building the necessary margin to accept future capabilities in the decades to come," added Brennan.
While the Abrams remains the dominant vehicle on the battlefield, the ECP program will make it more formidable by including a new armor solution as well as an updated version of the counter-remote-control improvised explosive device electronic warfare, or CREW, system.
Initial production of tanks with ECP1 upgrades is slated to begin in 2017.