‘Ukraine stops’ SEPv4, next Abrams tank revives 2009 project

In a recent development that has taken many by surprise, the Pentagon has announced its intention to discontinue the enhancement of its premier battle tank, designated as the Abrams System Enhancement Package Version 4 [SEPv4]. In a rather intriguing turn of events, the military has initiated efforts to resurrect a previously abandoned project, namely the M1E3 Abrams.

Abrams SEPv4 is being prepared for lethality and survivability tests
Photo credit: US Army

Upon careful analysis, it becomes evidently stark that the protracted suspension of the much-anticipated and fervently demanded M1A2 Abrams SERp4 tank can be largely attributed to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“The situation in Ukraine has underscored the exigent requirement for an internally constructed, comprehensive defense system for our Soldiers, as opposed to one that is assembled in a haphazard, ad hoc manner,” articulated Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, the presiding officer of the Army’s Ground Combat Systems Program, in a formal announcement. He further elucidated that the Abrams tank, “is no longer capable of augmenting its capabilities without imposing additional weight, and there is a pressing need to curtail its logistical footprint.”

In the coming weeks, the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, is set to receive a portion, if not the entirety, of the pledged American Abrams tanks, specifically the M1 version. Washington will probably leverage this opportunity to analyze the Ukrainian utilization of these tanks, thereby gaining valuable insights to enhance the features of the forthcoming M1E3 Abrams model.

What we know about the M1E3 Abrams

Contrary to emerging assumptions, the M1E3 Abrams project is not a recent undertaking. Indeed, its inception can be traced back to 2009, a year that marked the commencement of its original design. As time unfolds, it appears the project is set to undergo a series of substantial modifications. In its initial phase back in 2009, the project encompassed the integration of elements from the discontinued Future Combat Systems [FCS] to enhance the tank’s platform.

These elements included the XM360 lightweight gun, an Active Protection System, an Electro-Optical Infrared [EOIR] Mast-Mounted Sight, and a Precision Strike Multiple-Round Simultaneous Impact [PS-MRS].

Incorporating the most advantageous characteristics of the M1A2 SEPv4, the M1E3 Abrams is projected to significantly enhance its operational capabilities. This enhancement is largely due to its compatibility with the Modular Open Systems Architecture standards, as asserted in the statement. This compatibility is expected to expedite and streamline the incorporation of technological advancements, thereby resulting in a more efficient upgrade process.

“This development paves the way for the Army, in conjunction with its commercial associates, to engineer a tank that is not only lighter and more survivable but also possesses enhanced initial battlefield effectiveness. Moreover, this design will facilitate future upgrades, thereby ensuring its continued relevance in rapidly evolving combat scenarios.”

3,000 M1 tanks in stock, but US refrains from delivery to Ukraine
Photo credit: Yandex

The United States appears poised to undertake substantial modifications to its tank units, not merely limiting the focus to the reduction of the present model’s weight or the now-abandoned version 4 plans. The goal extends to a comprehensive enhancement of its combat efficacy and lethality. The conflict in Ukraine emerges as the catalyst for these impending transformations.

Active protection system or APS

The specifics of the enhancements slated for the M1E3 Abrams, aimed at transforming it into a lighter yet more lethal tank, continue to be shrouded in secrecy. Currently, Abrams tanks are provisionally outfitted with the Trophy active protection system, a modification which, according to the US authorities, contributes to an additional increase in the tank’s weight.

It has been strongly indicated by Washington that the M1E3 version is likely to see the replacement of Trophy. Such a development seems to be on the horizon. “The investment made in the subsystem technology for v4 is expected to transition seamlessly into the upgraded ECP [Engineering Change Proposal] program for the Abrams,” postulated Deputy Secretary of the Army, Gabe Camarillo.

“Nonetheless, the strategy involves fostering intense competition at the subsystem level to meet the rigorous demands of the forthcoming ECP. Consequently, the quest will be for the superlative technology spanning diverse arenas,” such as robust active protection systems and more lightweight materials.

Quick Kill APS in 2009

Speaking of active defense systems, we should recall that after they adopted the project in 2009, the US Army broke the Quick Kill active defense system.

The development and implementation of Quick Kill represent a significant advancement in tank protection systems. By providing active defense capabilities, it complements the traditional passive armor protection of armored vehicles.

US Army Abrams tank tested a new ground fire control system - atlas
Photo credit: DoD

This combination of active and passive protection greatly enhances the survivability of tanks and improves the safety of the crew. Quick Kill has been extensively tested and proven in various operational scenarios, demonstrating its effectiveness in real-world combat situations. As a result, it has gained recognition and adoption by several military forces around the world as a critical component of their armored vehicle fleets.

What is Quick Kill APS?

Quick Kill is designed to be highly adaptable and customizable to meet the specific requirements of different armored vehicles. It can be integrated into various platforms, including main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and armored personnel carriers. The system can also be upgraded and enhanced with additional features and capabilities as new technologies become available. This flexibility ensures that Quick Kill remains effective and relevant in the ever-evolving threat landscape of modern warfare.

One of the key features of Quick Kill is its ability to detect and track incoming threats with great accuracy and speed. The system employs a combination of radar, infrared sensors, and other technologies to continuously monitor the surrounding environment. When a threat is detected, Quick Kill quickly analyzes its trajectory and determines the optimal countermeasure to neutralize it. This can include firing a shotgun-like blast of projectiles, deploying smoke screens, or even jamming the guidance systems of incoming missiles.

The tank active protection system Quick Kill is a cutting-edge technology designed to enhance the survivability of armored vehicles on the battlefield. It is a defensive system that provides real-time protection against various threats, such as anti-tank guided missiles [ATGMs], rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and other projectiles. Quick Kill utilizes advanced sensors, algorithms, and countermeasures to detect and neutralize incoming threats before they can hit the tank. This system significantly reduces the vulnerability of armored vehicles and increases the chances of mission success.

Quick Kill APS vs. Trophy APS

The difference between tank Quick Kill APS and Trophy APS lies in their design and functionality. Quick Kill APS, also known as Active Protection System, is a generic term used to describe a range of systems that are designed to detect and neutralize incoming threats to a tank, such as anti-tank missiles or rockets. Trophy APS, on the other hand, is a specific type of Quick Kill APS developed by Israel. It is considered one of the most advanced and effective APS systems available today.

Israeli Trophy APS
Photo credit: Pan.bg

Trophy APS offers several advantages over other Quick Kill APS systems. One of the key advantages is its ability to provide 360-degree protection. Unlike some other systems that only cover specific sectors, Trophy APS can detect and engage threats from all directions, providing a higher level of defense. Additionally, Trophy APS has a very fast reaction time, allowing it to intercept incoming threats in a matter of seconds. This quick response time greatly enhances the survivability of the tank and its crew.

There are several reasons why Trophy APS is considered better than other Quick Kill APS systems. Firstly, Trophy APS has a high success rate in intercepting and neutralizing incoming threats. Extensive testing and real-world combat experience have demonstrated its effectiveness in protecting tanks. Secondly, Trophy APS has a low rate of false alarms, meaning it can accurately distinguish between actual threats and harmless objects, reducing the risk of unnecessary engagement. Lastly, Trophy APS is modular and can be easily integrated into tank platforms, making it a versatile and adaptable solution for different military vehicles.

M1E3 in the early 2030s

“It is acknowledged that upcoming battlefields present novel difficulties for the tank, a conclusion drawn from close scrutiny of recent and ongoing conflicts,” stated Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Norman, who helms the Next Generation Warfighter Cross-Functional Team. “There emerges a pressing need to enhance both the mobility and survivability of the Abrams, thereby ensuring its continued capacity to engage and obliterate the enemy, thus maintaining its role as an apex predator in prospective battlefields.”

It is the intention of the Army to manage the production of the M1A2 SEPv3 at a scaled-down rate, persisting in this manner until such time as it can seamlessly transition into the manufacturing of the M1E3.

Forecasts indicate that the M1E3 is slated to attain its initial operational capability in the early phase of the 2030s, as per the Army’s declaration. “In the face of threats that are escalating not only in their lethality but also their survivability, the M1E3 Abrams is designed to effectively neutralize these challenges,” expounded the official communique.


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