The Marine Corps is modernizing one of its most reliable battle platforms: the M1A1 Abrams tank.
A trio of upgrades to the tank commander's weapon station will give tank commanders and gunners a "hunter-killer edge" over the enemy, according to an announcement from Marine Corps Systems Command. The improvements include better sights on the Abrams integrated display and targeting system [AIDATS], simplified handling with a single set of controls, and a "slew to cue" button that repositions the turret with a single command, officials said.
The display improvements will replace a black-and-white camera view with a color one and add thermal sights that can be used day or night. The color display is a particularly significant gain, said Michael Kreiner, AIDATS project officer in SYSCOM's Armor and Fire Support Systems division.
“Users didn’t like the black and white camera that was in the tank before, because they have a hard time distinguishing between different color trucks," Kreiner said in a statement.
Taken together, these systems could be a significant boon for the tank commander. Officials said preliminary testing showed use of the upgrades reduced target engagement time from six seconds to three by allowing the commander and the gunner to work more closely and collaborate better on target acquisition.
Testing on the upgrades is ongoing at Abderdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. All three systems are expected to be fielded at the same time in the first quarter of 2018, according to the announcement.
This additional capability allows the commander to assist the gunner when the tank is moving, making it easier to manipulate the turret toward a target, said Shaffer. Preliminary tests show the three systems used together reduce target engagement time from six seconds to three seconds. The team hopes to field all three systems simultaneously in the first quarter of 2018. Currently, the team is conducting qualification testing on five demonstration AIDATS systems at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.