WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 5, 2007) - The Army will transfer 80 M1A1 Abrams tanks over the next eight months to the Marine Corps to help them replace earlier models which the Army has already upgraded.

In an agreement between the two services, 25 M1A1s will be transferred to the Marine Corps by the end of March. The remaining 55 will be transferred as they become available during the fiscal year. The Marine Corps will fund all transfer costs from the Army's tank storage facility at the Sierra Army Depot in California.

This is not the first time Army G8, Force Development Division, has collaborated with the Marine Corps. Since 2004, the Army has transferred 144 M1A1s to the Marine Corps, which then modifies the Abrams' hulls and turrets for their unique operational requirements, such as forward deployments afloat via Marine expeditionary units.

"The most outwardly apparent difference is the Marine Corps' unique smoke-grenade launchers that are applied to the tanks. Other unique modifications that are applied to USMC tanks include hull modifications that allow for the tank to use a deep-water fording kit, a unique thermal sight with a far-target location capability and a tank infantry phone recently adopted by the Army," said Marine Maj. Wendell B. Leimbach Jr., acting program manager, tank systems, Marine Corps Systems Command.

According to Maj. Alphonso Gamble, G8, Abrams systems sync officer at the Pentagon, the transfer will not impact the Army's active and Reserve components.

"We have more than 750 older Abrams tanks. We keep these in reserve since we don't build new tanks, we only retrofit our older ones" Gamble said. "The Army modular heavy brigade combat team force structure we're moving to will consist of the Abrams M1A2 modified under the system enhancement program and the M1A1 rebuilt to like-new condition through the Abrams integrated management program."

Gamble said the Army is "just doing the right thing" by supporting its brothers-in-arms, and that both services benefit.

"The Army benefit to this is that we're both in the current fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom and by assisting the Marine Corps with upgraded tanks we're doing the right thing to protect their Marines as well as our Soldiers in current and future operations," Gamble said.