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Rebuilding The Saudi Tank Force
by James Dunnigan
May 1, 2012

 Six years ago Saudi Arabia decided to have its 315 M1A2 tanks upgraded to the M1A2S standard. So far, 200 of the Saudi M1s have gone through the rebuilding, which involved shipping the tanks to the United States where they are taken apart, worn or damaged parts are repaired or rebuilt, and the tank is reassembled with additional mechanical and electronic components and refurbished older ones that bring it up to the M1A2S standard. That is, the Saudi tanks are restored to "like new" condition. Ultimately Saudi Arabia will have 373 MiA2S tanks, which includes some new M1s vehicles plus the 315 older ones rebuilt. The M1A2 is the 1985 M1A1 with a number of minor improvements and upgrades, plus an independent thermal sight for the commander and improved armor. The M1A2S has some special modifications to help tanks cope with operating in the desert.

The M-1 Abrams tank is considered the best combat proven tank in the world. But there are many different models of M1s, which vary considerably in their combat capability. The earliest model is only about half as capable as the most recent M1A2SEP model. The first of 3,273 M-1 Abrams tanks was produced in 1978. This version had a 105mm gun. The first of 4,796 M1A1s (with a 120mm gun and depleted uranium armor) was produced in 1985 (plus 221 for the U.S. Marines and 555 co-produced with Egypt and another 200 M1A1s for Egypt). Production of the M1A2 (with improved fire control systems) began in 1986, with 77 for the US Army, 315 for Saudi Arabia, and 218 for Kuwait. Another 600 M1s were upgraded to M1A2 standards. Deliveries of these upgrades began in 1998. In 2001, the army began to upgrade 240 M1A2 tanks with better thermal imaging and fire control equipment as well as communications and computer equipment that would allow tanks to operate a full color "battlefield internet" with each other as well as headquarters and warplanes with similar equipment. The army upgraded 700 tanks to the M1A2SEP (System Enhancement Package) standard and built another 240 new M-1A2SEP vehicles.

There were other upgrades, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, for urban warfare. Hundreds more M-1s had battle damage repaired and upgrades installed at the same time.

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