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Land Forces 2018: Challenges for Australian ABRAMS Upgrade

Entire fleet of M1A1 ABRAMS to be upgraded to M1A2


The planned upgrade of the Australian Army’s M1A1 main battle tank (MBT) has to overcome some challenges before it can forge ahead. Under Land 907 Phase 2, the entire fleet of M1A1 ABRAMS will be upgraded to M1A2 but a spokesperson from General Dynamics (GD) told MONCh there are issues to address including the weight of the MBT.

The programme has passed Gate 0 and is pre-Gate 1 which is expected in December 2018 with a Request for Tender to be released in the first quarter of 2019. M1A2 has improved survivability but this means a considerable weight gain that could be an issue for the Australian Army.

The GD spokesperson said that it might not have amphibious capability – the ability to be safely transported on a landing craft – due to the increased weight and that the company is exploring solutions.

Although the US Army also operates the M1A2 it has fewer issues with the amphibious capability as they operate different landing craft and use different ships for these kinds of deployment.

However, GD said it is committed to finding a low risk solution in cooperation with the Australian government and there are options available for reducing weight, however the programme is at an early stage and there is not RFT yet.

Under an upgrade to M1A2 the tank can expect to receive Australian Government Furnished Equipment such as a new Battle Management System, the EOS Remote Weapon Station and a new communications fit among other systems. The spokesperson said it is undecided what exactly the Army wants but it wants to ensure that the tank is suitable for the digital age.

There will also be upgrades to the training and simulation systems that together with the new systems will allow the MBTs to remain in-service until 2035.

The spokesperson said that another project Land 8160 Phase 1 for the acquisition of a new Armoured Engineering Vehicle (AEV) will be rolled into the MBT modernisation programme, almost as a sub-programme.

Under Land 8160 phase 1, Australia intends to buy A2 chassis from the US Army remove the turret and put an engineering turret on instead and fit it with other modules such as bridging, plough and mine rolling kits. The combined total budget for both programmes is now about A$1.75-A2.5 billion.

Tim Fish


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