Army's  M1A1 SA/ED built at Anniston
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Artillery repairers test the turret of an M1A1 SA/ED tank
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M1A1 SA/ED turret tested for accuracy
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The turret for the first M1A1 SA/ED variant built at Anniston Army Depot goes through the final stages of testing March 2 before it's mated with the hull. Artillery repairer Bubba Jennings takes a final look at components such as the boresight equipm... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala.-A new high-tech variant of the Army's M1A1 combat vehicle was introduced into the depot's production schedule in January, and the assembly of the first of 156 ordered by TACOM Life Cycle Management Command was completed here March 2.

This latest M1A1 tank model, dubbed M1A1 SA/ED, comes equipped with technology supporting situation awareness and embedded diagnostics. The depot in January 2008 ran a 'proof-of-pilot' program to prove that workers here possessed all the skills necessary to manufacture the vehicle and that the industrial complex was capable of handling the necessary workload, said Josh Mitchell, production controller.

Although the never-before-seen configuration of the M1 and its new supply chain management process presented challenges for the program managers, "everyone involved has put forth a tremendous effort to overcome these obstacles and ensure a successful program, now and into the future," said Scott Dailey, TACOM LCMC M1A1 product integrator. "This program will provide a great benefit to our Soldiers, with the smallest possible burden to the taxpayer."

The program is being executed through a workshare agreement between the depot and contractor General Dynamics Land Systems, said Larry Phillips, depot program manager. In this type of public-private partnership, the government separately funds the contractor and the depot, with both parties performing a share of the work.

TACOM LCMC is paying Anniston Army Depot, or ANAD, to dissemble M1A1 tanks that have been stored at California's Sierra Army Depot. Aside from vehicle disassembly and reassembly, Anniston is responsible for the repair and upgrade of the turret and hull.

About 100 depot mechanics, machinists and welders in the Nichols Industrial Complex are dedicated to the teardown, repair, assembly and testing of these vehicles.

GDLS is charged with installing the improved side armor on the M1A1 turret at its government-owned, contractor-operated facility in Lima, Ohio. They receive the turret structures from Anniston after government workers here complete the teardown. Back at the depot, GDLS workers kit the parts for ANAD to use in the assembly process.

"This program is one of our priorities. We're excited about the opportunity to be a part of it," said Debby Staton, material section manager for GDLS at a facility on depot where the kitting is performed.

Both partners have technical experience in the production of the M1 main battle tank. GDLS is the tank's original equipment manufacturer, while the depot has been working on the M1 since the 1970s. Aside from the M1A1 version being upgraded to the SA/ED variant, two other versions of the M1 are in service: the original M1 and the M1A2.

Some capabilities unique to the SA/ED model include the armor enhancements, remote thermal sight and the tank infantry phone. Aside from the monitoring and sensor technology inserted into the tank's situation awareness system, Soldiers will take advantage of the latest AGT-1500 engine upgrades and the tank urban survivability kit, or TUSK.

Artillery repairer Von Boykins has been testing M1 turrets for three years and said though there is little difference between the SA/ED model and other M1 variants, "the biggest difference is the updated sights."

"It only takes a couple weeks to get fully accustomed to testing a new variant," said Bubba Jennings, an artillery repairer here for more than 10 years.