The Marine Corps’ M1A2 Abrams tank could get a whole lot tougher

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Cpl. Dylan McKee, a combat engineer with Assault Breacher Vehicle Platoon, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, sits atop an Assault Breacher Vehicle and assists with sight alignment for the M48 .50 calibre machine gun before a live-fire exercise aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, April 30, 2014. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Haas

The M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank is already a force to be reckoned with, but as anti-tank threats evolve, so to must the 36-year-old weapon platform’s defences.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, told the Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee that the Marine Corps ought to follow in the footsteps of the Navy, who already use active protection and electronic warfare systems to defend their assets.

“When we start getting threats on our aircraft, our helicopters, our fixed wing aircraft, [from] infrared missiles, we quickly put out a capability to defeat those types of missiles,” Walsh said.

“Now we’re seeing the threat on the ground changing, becoming a much more sophisticated threat on the ground. What we’ve continued to do is up-armour our capabilities on the ground.”

“We’ve got to start thinking more with a higher technology capability, with vehicle protective systems, active protective systems that can defeat anti-tank guided munitions, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) … along with soft capability, which is the technology our aircraft have,” Walsh continued, referring to Navy aircraft’s electronic warfare capabilities as the “soft” side of vehicle protection.

Luckily, the technology to counter advanced anti-tank missiles has already been established. US Naval Institute News reports that the Corps are partnering with the Army to test out Israel’s Trophy Active Protection System (APS) on their Abrams tanks and Stryker combat vehicles.

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M1A2 Abrams tanks with 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, hunt for the enemy in the Hohenfels Training Area during Combined Resolve II, May 29, 2014. US Army Gertrud Zach

The Trophy system detects and counters incoming enemy anti-tank rounds with a hail of small rounds, detonating them mid-air before they reach the tank itself.

The Trophy system will be new to the Abrams, but similar systems are already in use on more advanced tanks, like Russia’s T-14 Armata.


The other element of the Abrams’ new defence will be electronic warfare, or trying to jam and disable incoming missiles. In this arena, Walsh is confident that the Navy’s expertise will greatly aide the Marines.

“I think that’s the side we’re really going to benefit from the Navy capabilities, because the Navy has some very good EW (electronic warfare) capabilities.”

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