The M1A2 Abrams System Enhancement Package (SEP) version 3 (v3) main battle tank wrapped up extensive cold-weather testing at U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC) this winter to ensure it functions as it should wherever in the world it could be called on to serve. Since testing at the Department of Defense’s lone extreme cold natural environment testing facility began in January 2020, the SEPv3 was driven more than 2,000 miles in rugged conditions across three seasons of sub-Arctic weather, fired hundreds of rounds for accuracy in extreme cold, and underwent testing of its auxiliary power unit, as well as numerous other sub-systems.
The list of improvements to test in the SEPv3 is lengthy: improved fire control electronics mean the SEPv3’s gun can shoot faster and more accurately; the armor has been improved; it can even utilize hubcaps and road arms manufactured with a 3D printer. Onboard diagnostics are much more robust, and technical manuals can be accessed from removable screens. Though the platform was extensively tested at Yuma Test Center prior to being put through its paces in Alaska, the sub-zero temperatures brought forth glitches that would have been unimaginable in the desert.
Conducting evaluations in the extreme cold of an interior Alaskan winter usually brings unexpected challenges even for the rugged professionals of CRTC, and this test was no different. One night, overflow ice from the nearby Delta River flooded the gun position, then quickly refroze rock-solid. CRTC’s vast expanse includes other ranges that could be utilized, but not ones that had important infrastructure that the testers needed. The target that CRTC’s Allied Trades shop had to recreate on the fly consisted of tall poles upon which a target is pulled into place with a hand crank.
The fixed target is emplaced in the ground, which required approvals for work and brush clearance prior to construction. The mobile target was re-used in the summer, and provides a flexible new capability for future tests. The M1 and its variants have been tested at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground and its constituent test centers for more than 40 years, and likely will continue to be for as long as the system remains in the ground combat arsenal. This testing has played a vital role in keeping the M1 the most capable tank in the world.