Story by Mark Schauer on 12/06/2018YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- What has outstanding offensive and defensive capability and represents the tip of the spear in a major land war?
It's the M1A2 Systems Engineering Plan (SEP) version 3 (v3) main battle tank, and right now it's being put through its paces across the more than 200 miles of rugged road courses at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), all to ensure it functions as it should wherever in the world it could be called on to serve.
"This is a tried and tested piece of military hardware that has been battle proven in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere," said Greg Duda, Abrams test lead. "The Abrams is extremely lethal, survivable, and reliable."
Except for the exterior, today's SEPv3 would be almost unrecognizable to the tankers who served on its earliest incarnation. YPG testing has touched virtually every aspect of this behemoth, and the initial reviews about the latest iteration's performance are good across the board.
"We've been proving this through testing for the past two and a half years, and it's proven to be the most amazing variant of this platform yet," said Duda. "It's a feat of engineering that touches on many different disciplines: software engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering."
The list of improvements is lengthy: improved fire control electronics mean the SEPv3's gun can shoot faster and more accurately; the engine, drivetrain, and tracks have been updated for higher performance and to support the platform's weight increase; it may even sport hubcaps and road arms manufactured by way of 3D printing, a facet that is under test here at YPG.
"As the technology advances, the tanks have to advance as well," said Martin Velazquez, test officer. "The SEPv3s have a lot more onboard diagnostics than earlier iterations: they have removable screens that carry the tech manuals that can accomplish a lot of diagnostics on the vehicles without taking it to the shop."
"A lot of people don't realize the amount of software in this platform," added Duda. "There are over 1.4 million lines of code on this tank."
The newest Abrams is also more heavily armored than previous versions, which necessitates improvements in the power system and suspension.
"A lot of the extra weight is from the kits that get installed, such as the Abrams Armor Reactive Tiles that are installed in close-combat situations," said Velazquez.
For all its dazzling technology, however, the newest Abrams remains true to its original conception: overwhelming power and overmatch against any adversary.
"The Abrams is the best main battle tank on Earth," said Duda. "The raw mobility that gets you from point A to point B is amazing. The dynamics on the turret, the fire control, and the range it can engage the enemy is phenomenal."