Armor: September 6, 2001


At a cost of $6 million each, the U.S. Army is in the midst of upgrading 477 of it's M-1 tanks. By 2012, 1,174 are to be upgraded (and, yes, the per tank price is going down as more are upgraded.) Most of the money is going into new electronics that makes the inside of the tank look like the flight deck of a space ship. The gunner and commander both have improved thermal sights, allowing operations in the night or fog. The commander and driver also have color displays showing their location, local geography and the position of friendly, and suspected enemy, vehicles and other information. New communications equipment sends bursts of coded information to other tanks and headquarters. This is what "digitalization" is all about. Tests with the refurbed tanks amazed all concerned. Night operations moved much more quickly and occupied twice as much area (making them less likely to be hit by enemy fire.) Operating over a wider area made things more difficult for the enemy, who had to take longer to find out who was where and communicate it to each other. The refurbed M-1s were also quieter inside. With all the location data and some of the orders being transferred automatically, and updating the computer map displays, there was a lot less chatter on the radio. All the new electronics have another benefit; air conditioning. The temperature inside the tank has to be kept under 90 degrees lest the electronics fail. Normally, in the Summer, tank interiors can reach 125-135 degrees. So 90 degrees is, by comparison, quite comfortable. 


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