View Full Version : New Army tank could mean changes for Corps’ M1A1 fleet

09-22-2009, 02:41 PM
New Army tank could mean changes for Corps’ M1A1 fleet

By Dan Lamothe


With the Army developing a tank for the 21st century, the Corps faces tough decisions about its aging M1A1 Abrams fleet, the Corps’ armor integration officer said.

The Army intends to build prototypes of a high-tech M1A3 Abrams by 2014 and field new vehicles by 2017. The project will incorporate improvements made to the existing Abrams fleet in Iraq, such as underbelly armor and ballistic shields, and allow the new tanks to plug into modern computer networks, Army officials said.

This puts the Corps at a crossroads. With far fewer tanks in its fleet and less money available for upgrades, Marine officials must decide between keeping the M1A1 in the field through 2050, moving to the M1A2 System Enhancement Package, or partnering with the Army on the M1A3, said Maj. M.J. Walters, heavy armor capabilities integration officer with Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Speaking to members of the defense industry at a Sept. 16 summit in Vienna, Va., Walters said “it becomes a problem for us” if the Army pulls out of the M1A1 program.

“We rely on the Army for a lot of funding with our tank program,” he said. “They do a lot of the [research and development] and a lot of the integration, and without them, our costs are going to go up quite a bit.” The Corps has about 400 tanks, which cost around $4 million each. The Army has thousands, with an effort underway that converts older M1A1 models into newer M1A2 variants with upgraded equipment.

The matter is complicated further by the Corps’ decision to devote heavy funding through 2025 to the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Marine Personnel Carrier, Walters said.

“Until those vehicles are taken care of, the tank community is going to be on the backside of funding,” he said. “All of the modiications that we have been doing with the Army are probably going to go away, and we’re going to have enough money to keep [the M1A1] tank alive until that 2025, 2026 time frame. We’re going to be put on a diet, or something. I don’t know.” MCCDC has launched a study to determine how much each option could cost, Walters said. It also plans to determine how long it will take before the equipment and electronics currently in the M1A1 become obsolete.

Tank round, M88A2s sought

The Corps continues to pursue other tank projects, however, including a new 120mm multipurpose, high-explosive round. It will allow Marine tank crews to assist infantry units by blasting holes in reinforced concrete walls, or even demolishing bunkers with a single shot. The Army, which does not consider the new round a priority, is offering little help in its development, Walters said.

“We didn’t see eye-to-eye on our priorities,” he said. “This type of capability is essential to the way we fight with our infantry. We don’t just send tanks to fight in massive formations. That’s the Army’s job, and they do it well. We go where our infantry goes, and the infantry’s at our side.” Three thousand rounds have been purchased to cover shortterm needs until the Army develops a next-generation round. The Corps’ round was tested this summer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., with three rounds opening a hole in a concrete wall large enough for a 6-foot-3 Marine to walk through in his combat gear, Walters said.

The Corps also plans to buy more M88A2 Hercules recovery vehicles, used to retrieve disabled tanks, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and armored trucks. There are 68 in the fleet now, with plans to purchase four more in fiscal 2010 and three in 2011, Walters said. The Corps will seek another 28 in 2012, giving the service 103 overall.

The need for more M88A2s became apparent in Iraq, Walters said. With tanks sometimes deployed 100 miles away from their unit, M88A2s had a lot of ground to cover. The Corps wants two per tank company, two per combat engineer battalion and eight per Marine logistics group, Walters said. Currently, there is typically one in each tank company, none in CEBs and four in each MLG.

Stopping RPGs

The Corps also is developing plans for active prevention systems that can stop rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank rounds from destroying an Abrams, amphibious assault vehicles and armored trucks, Walters said.

Several companies have developed devices that can destroy RPGs, but most work by shooting something at it, making the round explode before it hits the tank. While safety mechanisms can prevent nearby dismounted troops from getting hurt in the process, the Corps remains skeptical. Marine officials recently completed a study in which infantrymen ranging from battalion executive officers to corporal squad leaders were asked what level of risk they were willing to face to save a tank crew, Walters said.

“Any time you talk about active protection systems and you’re talking about systems that are shooting something back, a lot of Marines cringe and a lot of leader*ship cringes,” he said. “Once you kill a Marine with an active protection system, that commander is going to turn that system off and he’s not going to use it again. We have to make sure this system works well enough that it’s useful, but that we’re also not killing our Marines on the side just to save our crews.” The Corps is exploring a system that will alert tank crews when an RPG is incoming, but has not decided whether it wants to buy anything yet, Marine officials said.

09-22-2009, 03:04 PM
fuck me that sounds good, but i still think the M1A1 could still do a very good job especially if it had some upgrades done to it.

09-22-2009, 07:03 PM
Interesting. Any pictures of this M1A3?

09-22-2009, 08:19 PM
Interesting. Any pictures of this M1A3?

I doubt it considering it's still in early production. But really, I don't think the look is going to change. If it does, I hope it looks as or more bad ass than the new Leopard.

09-22-2009, 09:48 PM
I doubt it considering it's still in early production. But really, I don't think the look is going to change. If it does, I hope it looks as or more bad ass than the new Leopard.

Hehe. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I'm thinking that they may do more of an angled hull, on the side skirts(judging from lessons learned in Iraq). But who knows. All we can do is wait and see.