FORT HOOD, Texas -- Ironhorse troopers from 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment are spending time in the field, testing system upgrades to their Abrams main battle tank, the M1A2 SEPv2, which was introduced in 2005, the SEPv2. In 2011 the Army recognized a need for upgrades in order to restore lost capabilities and allow the capacity for insertion of new technologies.

The U.S. Army is preparing the M1A2 Abrams, its long-serving main battle tank, to be able to fight through the 2020s with some upgrades. Should the need arise to place MBT's in geographical areas such as Eastern Europe, the Abrams upgrade will ensure that it is once again America's most powerful weapon in a ground conflict.

This version rectifies many of the space, weight, and power issues. In addition to having improved survivability, the Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 can host any mature technology the Army deems operationally relevant. Improvements focus on power, management, counter-IED systems and improved, embedded training, and an ammunition data link. It is the most reliable Abrams tank ever produced, will decrease the Army's logistic burden, and leads the Army in Enterprise-level connectivity to maintenance and supply systems.

Contrary to popular belief, the need for the Main Battle Tank is not diminished. The re-emergence of peer threats, traditional, asymmetric, and new threats such as cyber, hand-held electronics, tactical drones and increased use of electronic warfare (jamming or GPS denial), continue to challenge our forces. Additionally, the proliferation of older technologies such as high-end anti-tank weapons demonstrates the need for these upgrades.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Donald Phillips, United States Army Operational Test Command's V3 Test NCOIC, 2-8 CAV Soldiers were instrumental in testing the new upgrades and their performance during testing made the process simpler.

"2-8 CAV just came off the mission of Atlantic Resolve in Europe. During their 9-month deployment, they conducted large amounts of tactical and live fire training. They are well trained." He continued, "Their experience and expertise on the M1A2 SEPv2 made them perfect candidates to execute this test on the M1A2 SEPv3. They have been able to understand the differences of the two variants, evaluate, from there level, the usefulness of the upgrades, and accurately relay that information to the data collectors."

Phillips also talked about how the testing has gone so far and its comparison to previous tests.
"As the Test NCOIC, I can tell you that 90% of my job is preparation. We have over 14 different agencies working of this test from all over the Army and Department of Defense. The partnership and transparency between all of us working on this test has been fantastic." He stated further, "Our Director's constant guidance is 'We are many agencies but one team. We are here to facilitate a test for the Soldier to ensure the best equipment makes it in to the hands of the War Fighter.' I think we have done that."

Maj. Brian Butcher, Operational Test Command-Mounted Test Division, added to Phillips comments.
"The Soldiers from 2-8 Cav. have been extremely motivated and their candid input has been critical to USAOTC's effort to provide meaningful data to Army Evaluation Center who will evaluate the effectiveness, suitability and survivability of the M1A2 SEPv3. Throughout the testing, 2-8 CAV executed both defensive and offensive operations focusing on METL and collective tasks they wanted to train. Their expertise and experience with previous versions of the Abrams tanks enabled them to provide data on the SEPv3, but also make comparisons to previous versions of the tanks." Maj. Butcher added, "Participation in this test has allowed B CO, 2-8 Cav. to hone their already impressive tactical edge while also significantly contributing to the readiness of 2-8 Cav. and modernization of the Army."

1st Lt. Tyler Debuse, a tank platoon leader in 2-8 Cav., says that it was a positive to have been selected to be the test platoon.

"It's cool for these crews to have been able to test these new systems since they already have SEPv2 experience and now they'll acquire a few new certifications before the actual tank is fielded."
Debuse's crew was a mixture of Soldiers from different tanks of Bravo Company, 2-8 Cav. Staff Sgt. Benjamin Yandall, Bravo Section Sergeant, Spc. Rigo Robles, gunner, Spc. Cristian Chavez and Sgt. Cody Hollifield, shop foreman, Bravo Company, FSC.

Yandall commented on what it meant to him to be a part of the testing process.

"It's an honor to be the first ones to get inside and test these new systems. We will now be considered subject matter experts and can go back to our crews and teach them what they need to know to operate successfully these newly upgraded tanks."

Robles added, "This tank is awesome. I've been a tanker for over two years and I'm eager to maneuver this tank with its new systems. They will make my job easier."

Hollifield stated that these upgrades definitely provided ease when regarding replacement of batteries that power the tank.

"With this upgrade, maintainers won't have to spend as much time repairing equipment that has been improved and negated the need for as many parts as well as man-hours spent providing maintenance."

To a man, all have voiced their excitement at the opportunity to put the tank the test. While no one is advocating for conflict, it definitely provides piece of mind to know that one will go into battle mounted on this amazing beast.