The Army has been busy integrating the latest Abrams tank variant, dubbed the M1A2C into its arsenal, and released images of the new tank at the end of last month.
Understanding the key capabilities M1A2C brings to the table highlights the challenges the military’s ground forces are facing in today’s security environment.
First off, the old versions of the Abrams, essentially a 1980s-era fighting vehicle, had several logistical and operative issues. The new version rectifies many of the space, weight, and power challenges identified during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Improvements focus on increasing the electrical power margin, Vehicle Health Management Systems, integrated counter-improvised explosive device protection, a new Auxiliary Power Unit, embedded training, and an ammunition data link. In addition to having improved mechanical survivability (i.e., less chance of breaking down), the Abrams M1A2C was made compatible with a wide array of technologies and weapons systems, many the outdated versions of the tank were not suited for.
But the primary advantage of M1A2C is definitely the technology it carries to defend itself. Indeed, achieving efficient counter-measures on fighting vehicles has been a major challenge for modern armored units the world over. Armor-piercing technology becoming so much more prevalent and easy to access presented a major threat to even the most advanced modern tanks. Consider systems such as the Kornet or Metis anti-tank missiles. Both of these weapons can penetrate well over 900mm of armor. Today, these platforms have been proliferated all over the Middle East, and have found their way into the hands of non-state actors as well, such as ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
The only way to address this threat was to equip tanks with reliable active protection systems (APS), defense platforms that could intercept missiles before they strike. Israel was the first to produce such a solution in the form of the Me’il Ruah APS, or “Trophy” in its English language title. After its effectiveness was proven during Israel’s operation in Gaza in 2014, the U.S. decided to procure Trophy for its own tanks. The M1A2C will be the first version of U.S. tanks built to carry the Trophy system.