An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank at the U.S. Army's National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., in 2019.

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank at the U.S. Army's National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., in 2019. U.S. Army / Sgt. Nathan Franco

Army wants lighter Abrams tank with new tech for future wars

The service will abandon one modernization effort in favor of a more sophisticated upgrade.

The U.S. Army wants to lighten its Abrams main battle tanks and outfit them with a slew of new technology that will ready the decades-old machines for the wars of the future.

Army officials say lessons from Ukraine have led them to abandon their current modernization approach in favor of one more suited to expected battlefield conditions.

“We appreciate that future battlefields pose new challenges to the tank as we study recent and ongoing conflicts,” Brig. Gen. Geoffrey Norman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said in an emailed statement. “We must optimize the Abrams’ mobility and survivability to allow the tank to continue to close with and destroy the enemy as the apex predator on future battlefields.”

The Army now plans to kill one of its Abrams upgrade programs, called System Enhancement Package Version 4, but will incorporate some of its “best features” into the new modernized Abrams, which will be called the M1E3.

“I think it's more about preserving funding or anything else,” said Dean Lockwood, a military vehicle analyst with Forecast International.

The Army statement says its “new approach balances costs with the Army’s needs and invests in the nation’s defense industrial base.”

The Army wants to make the tank lighter, better able to survive attack, and easier to upgrade. It also wants to reduce the tank’s logistical footprint, meaning the parts and people needed to service the tank on the battlefield.

“The war in Ukraine has highlighted a critical need for integrated protections for soldiers, built from within instead of adding on,” Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, said in a statement. 

The U.S. is transferring 31 Abrams tanks to the Ukrainian military.

Last year, Abrams maker General Dynamics Land Systems showed off an Abrams tank with new upgrades, including a hybrid-electric engine.