Armor: December 11, 2002

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The US M1 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 SEP model. The first of 3,273 M1 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 US Marines and 555 co-produced with Egypt, and another 200 M1A1s for Egypt, with production continuing until 2005). 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 are being upgraded to M1A2 standards. Deliveries of these upgrades began in 1998 and are continuing. 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 wants to upgrade 1150 tanks to this SEP (System Enhancement Package) standard, but has not yet gotten the money out of Congress. A M1A1 SEP will cost nearly $8 million each. 

 


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