The US Marine Corps announced plans to modernize their most reliable combat vehicle, the M1A1 Abrams tank, with a view toward improving the targeting and all environment capabilities of the linchpin of the American ground fighting force.
The M1A1 will receive three major upgrades in the tank commander’s weapon station, allowing commanders and gunners a "hunter-killer edge" over the enemy, according to a statement from Marine Corps Systems Command.
The tanks will be fitted with better sights on the Abrams integrated display and targeting system (AIDATS), which will enhance ease of use by switching handling to a single set of controls, and a 'slew to cue" button capable of re-positioning the turret with a single command, according the statement.
Perhaps most important, system displays will be upgraded from a black-and-white camera to color, with the additional aid of thermal sights, allowing better performance for both day and night settings. Tank crews reported being unable to discern smaller movements using the black and white screen.
"Users didn’t like the black and white camera that was in the tank before, because they had a hard time distinguishing between different color trucks," explained Michael Kreiner, AIDATS project officer in Systems Command’s Armor and Fire Support Systems division.
The upgrades appear to provide an immediate performance benefit for tank crews in combat, with preliminary tests showing that the upgrades reduced target engagement time from six seconds to three, with users able to better differentiate between targets and the upgrades enabling for more seamless collaboration between the gunner and commander.
Testing on the upgrades is slated to be conducted at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, with all three system enhancements scheduled to be available to forces in the combat theater by the first quarter of 2018.