The Army has announced plans for an improved main battle tank it expects will be battlefield-ready by early next decade.
Designing and building the new model — the M1E3 Abrams — “will focus on making the capability improvements needed to fight and win against future threats on the battlefield of 2040 and beyond,” according to an Army news release Wednesday.
“We appreciate that future battlefields pose new challenges to the tank as we study recent and ongoing conflicts,” Brig. Gen. Geoffrey Norman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said in the release. “We must optimize the Abrams’ mobility and survivability to allow the tank to continue to close with and destroy the enemy as the apex predator on future battlefields.”
The current model is powered by a jet turbine and burns through fuel at a rate of about two gallons per mile, meaning it requires a convoy of fuel trucks. While an Abrams can power through most challenging terrain, fuel trucks sometimes can’t.
“The war in Ukraine has highlighted a critical need for integrated protections for Soldiers, built from within instead of adding on,” Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, said in the Army statement.
The U.S. is set to deliver 31 refurbished M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine this fall to help in the fight against invading Russian forces.
President Joe Biden initially was unwilling to transfer Abrams tanks to Kyiv; the Pentagon said the roughly $10 million tanks are too complex and expensive for the Ukrainians to operate, maintain and repair.
The Army and manufacturers are planning a more survivable, lighter tank that will be more effective on the battlefield and easier to upgrade, according to Wednesday’s release.
“This modernization will enhance the efficacy and maneuverability of armored brigade combat teams in conflicts across the globe through a reduced sustainment footprint and increased operational and tactical mobility,” the release said.
Years of testing, analysis, soldier feedback and maturing technology culminated in the decision to focus on the M1E3, the Army said.
The service will continue to produce M1A2 tanks at a reduced rate until production transitions to the M1E3, according to the release.
The first new tanks may be ready in the early 2030s.
“As longer-range threats increase in both lethality and survivability, the M1E3 Abrams will be able to defeat those threats,” the release said. “The Abrams Main Battle Tank remains the most lethal, protected tank in the world.”