TUSK to update Abrams for urban battle
By Eric W. Cramer
The M1A2 Abrams tank is shown with TUSK improvements that will adapt it for the urban battlefield.
TUSK will allow Soldiers in the field to improve the Abrams’ ability to survive in urban areas off the traditional battlefield for which it was designed.
Lt. Col. Michael Flanagan, product manager for TUSK, said the goal is to help improve the tank’s survivability.
“You have to remember, the tank was a Cold War design, aimed at a threat that was always to its front. It’s still the most survivable weapon in the arsenal from the front,” Flanagan said. “Today it’s a 360-degree fight, and these systems are designed to improve survivability in that urban environment.”
The TUSK includes additional protection at the loader’s gun station on the turret, the commander’s gun station, reactive armor to protect the tank’s side from attack by rocket-propelled grenades and slat armor to protect the tank’s rear from the same weapon, and the tank/infantry telephone to allow infantry and armor Soldiers to work together in combat.
Flanagan said all the proposed upgrades use “off the shelf” technology, and the goal is for the entire TUSK to be applied by units in the field, without requiring a return to a depot for modification.
“The reactive armor, for example, is a product similar to what’s on the Bradley (Armored Fighting Vehicle),” Flanagan said. “It’s explosive armor that protects the vehicle.”
Another example would be the slat armor designed to protect the tank’s rear from RPG attack. It is similar in design and concept to the slat armor used on the Stryker armored vehicles for the same purpose.
The first TUSK component to reach the field has been the Loader’s Armored Gun Shield, which provides protection to the loader when the Soldier is firing the 7.62mm machinegun on the Abrams’ turret. Flanagan said about 130 of the shields have already been purchased and sent to units in Iraq. Also incorporated into the loader’s firing position is a thermal sight, giving the position the ability to locate and fire on targets in the dark.
“This is the same unit that is used on machineguns carried by infantry troops, and we’ve incorporated it into the loader’s position,” Flanagan said. He said a system that attaches a pair of goggles to the sight, allowing the loader to fire the gun from inside the turret, while seeing the thermal sight’s image, is under development.
Also under development are improvements to the commander’s station outside the turret, although different systems are necessary for the M-1A2 Abrams and its older M1-A1 brethren.
“Because of things we added to the turret in the A2, the commander’s station had lost the ability to shoot the .50-caliber machinegun while under armor,” Flanagan said. “We’re developing a Remote Weapons Station, that will probably be similar to the one used on the Stryker, to allow that weapon to be fire from inside the turret.”
Flanagan said the design could also allow the use of the crewed weapon station used on Humvees, but a final determination hasn’t been made.
Ultimately, most of these add-ons will be incorporated into a kit – installed in the field and removed in the field as a pre-positioned component for the next Abrams unit to take duty in that location. Flanagan said some kits will begin to reach the field later this year.
At least some of the kits’ components may also be included in new Abrams’ production.
“The loader’s shield and the remote weapons station, and the tank/infantry telephone all may be included as regular production items in the tank,” Flanagan said. “It’s important to remember that the Abrams will continue to be the dominant weapons system for the Army until at least 2030.”