The US Army has unveiled the AbramsX tank, which will replace the M1 Abrams tank

US Unveiled the "AbramsX," the Next-Generation M1 Abrams Tank
US Unveiled the "AbramsX," the Next-Generation M1 Abrams Tank

  • The newest version of the M1 Abrams tank, called AbramsX, has been released.
  • While previous Abrams variants had large crews, AbramsX drastically reduces them in order to accommodate new features.
  • The tank has a new main gun, automatic loader, and hybrid drive, and it now only requires three people to operate instead of four.

The M1 Abrams tank, which is now 40 years old, just received a slew of new upgrades, which could keep it operational for decades to come. The tank from the 1970s has been given a complete makeover to become a true 21st-century vehicle, and this week saw the introduction of the AbramsX, which is the result of that redesign. If put into production, the tank might not need replacement until the 2050s or even later.

A video posted on YouTube by General Dynamics Land Systems on Saturday gave viewers their first look at the next-generation AbramsX tank, which would later be officially unveiled by the aerospace and defense company at the 2022 Association of the United States Army convention in Washington, District of Columbia. During the Army's annual convention, new ideas and doctrines, as well as new pieces of hardware that the Army may buy in the future, are usually shown to the service. It's important to note that the AbramsX program isn't an official Army project. Instead, it's a private project led by the manufacturer.

An Overview of the M1 Abrams Tank

The M1 Abrams was made by Chrysler Defense, which is now known as General Dynamics Land Systems. It came out in 1979 to replace the main battle tanks that came before it. The M60 Patton was the last in a line of tanks used by the United States Army that began with the M26 Pershing in 1945. Each new tank, from the M26 to the M46, M47, M48, and M60, was a natural progression from the one before it. The M1, on the other hand, was a "clean sheet" design that broke with the series altogether. It had an angular turret, armor made in Britain called Chobham, a new ballistic computer, an early thermal imager, and a gasoline-powered turbine engine. The result was a tank that was better in every way: it was more resistant to bullets, faster, sleeker, and could fight in the dark.

There has been a parallel development on the M1 itself. The A1 was upgraded in the late 1980s with a new 120-millimeter main gun and depleted uranium armor, which, despite being bulky, greatly improved armor protection. The M1A2 has been gradually improved with things like a separate thermal viewer for the commander, a "silent watch" feature that lets the vehicle use its thermal sights even when it is off, better ballistic protection for the crew, explosive reactive armor to protect against shaped-charge weapons, a digital backbone, a digital ammunition datalink, and, most recently, the Trophy active protection system. 

How has AbramsX evolved recently?

With the release of the AbramsX, which has a completely new interior and exterior to fit cutting-edge technology, the M1 Abrams main battle tank has been updated in a big way. Traditional tank features like firepower, armor, and mobility have all been greatly improved. Let's go over those features, as well as a few others, in that order.

The XM360 120-millimeter gun, as it has been dubbed on social media, will replace the M256 120-millimeter gun in the next-gen tank's main armament. The XM360 was created for the Future Combat Systems program, which spent $18 billion trying to replace the Army's existing armored vehicles but only managed to create a single working vehicle. The XM360 can fire the same rounds as the older M256 because they are of the same caliber. To further mitigate recoil, the XM360's muzzle is equipped with a "pepperpot" muzzle brake. Titanium and composites are used to lighten the gun system, which in turn lightens the vehicle.

According to a press release from General Dynamics, the number of people working on the Abrams X has been cut down. Modern tanks like the German Leopard 2, Japanese Type 10, and South Korean K2 have an automatic loader in addition to the commander, gunner, loader, and driver found in the traditional Abrams crew. All eyes will be drawn to the three crew hatches prominently placed in the nose of the AbramsX. This means that the AbramsX's redesigned, lower-profile turret is not manned at all, and that this is the first Abrams to have an automatic loader.

The AbramsX looks like it has a 30-millimeter XM914 chain gun mounted on top of the turret. This gun is taking the place of the commander's M2.50 caliber machine gun and the loader's M240 7.62 caliber machine gun. The XM914 can be fired from the safety of the hull thanks to its remote-controlled gun system, which also allows the crew to use a thermal imaging camera to aim at targets in the dark and through smoke. The crew can use the chain gun against infantry, drones, soft-skinned vehicles like trucks, and lightly armored vehicles like the Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle, saving the main gun's ammunition for the main threat—enemy tanks. Indirectly, this improves the main gun's ammunition situation, letting it take on more foes.

The security features of AbramsX have also been enhanced

The fact that the hull looks like those of older Abrams tanks shows that it gives the same level of protection. It is said that the unmanned turret has a missile defense system that can stop and destroy any incoming missiles. When the main gun ammunition in the turret is detonated, the blast will be directed upward and away from the crew through a large panel on the top of the turret, which is likely a blowout panel.

AbramsX is meant to be the most mobile Abrams model since the first one came out in the 1970s. Due to the addition of depleted uranium armor and other features, a tank has gained a lot of weight over the past 40 years, going from 60 tons to 73.6 tons. According to General Dynamics, not only does the new vehicle feature a hybrid power pack, but it also cuts fuel costs in half. And there is a reduction in overall mass. Since the rest of the Army's vehicle fleet runs on diesel, the tank is also the first Abrams to use a diesel engine, which has long been a logistical stumbling block.

Modern tanks rely heavily on sensors in addition to the "Big Three" of firepower, protection, and mobility. According to the YouTube video, "enhanced Silent Watch" is a new feature included in AbramsX that allows the vehicle to run its energy-intensive thermal sights without turning on the gas turbine engine, which is both loud and visible in thermal imaging. Because of the tank's new hybrid engine and its larger battery pack, these sensors can operate for longer periods of time. The tank has armored cameras that face in all directions, so the crew can see what's going on outside from anywhere inside the tank. Like self-driving cars today, it seems to have radar sensors, one of which is pointing up at the back of the tank. This indicates that the AbramsX's active defense system can identify and neutralize high-flying weapons.

There will be debate over reducing the crew size from four to three. The U.S. Army, on the other hand, prefers a human loader because early autoloaders, especially Soviet autoloaders, were mechanically unstable. When stopping on a battlefield teeming with enemies, having a larger crew, especially four people, means more people to keep watch. But modern autoloaders have greatly improved, and the new combined arms organization keeps infantry close to tanks at all times. With the new setup, the three members of the crew can work and fight together side by side instead of being stationed at different places.

Also, General Dynamics says that AI will make it easier for the smaller crew to think. However, the specific mechanisms by which this will occur are not specified. Unlike unmanned armored vehicles, the tank can work in tandem with them.

When will US Army buy AbramsX?

The new AbramsX like in this video, is so much better than the first one that it's almost like a different tank. But will the powerful U.S. Army actually buy it?

As the Army has already tried and failed to replace the M1, purchasing yet another Abrams is the easiest option. Janes says that the tank is just a proof-of-concept for the technology and isn't ready for wide use yet. Even though the Army already has thousands of Abrams tanks and has remanufactured older tanks in the past to save money, it may not be possible to remanufacture Abrams X because it has been changed so much. It has new fuel tanks, a new turret, a new engine, and a new main gun.

AbramsX is not only a tank made in the 21st century, but its design and likely inclusion of features like top-attack active protection and a 30-millimeter chain gun are based on the conflict in Ukraine. If adopted by the U.S. Army, this could extend the life of the Abrams Platform well into the 2050s. That's about half a century longer than the tank's creators had anticipated it would last.

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