ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - The depot's overhaul and reset programs for various versions of M1 Abrams tanks began in 1978 and currently bring an average workload of $530 million to the installation each year. In the last few years, two new programs - one to overhaul battle-damaged M1A2s and another to inspect and repair M1A2s - have begun on the installation and continue to grow.

Two types

Anniston Army Depot is the Center for Industrial and Technical Excellence for the M1 family of tanks and currently repairs two types of M1 tanks, the M1A1 and M1A2 System Enhancement Package, version 2. These tanks differ in ways that are difficult to see from outside the vehicle, but make a large difference on the inside.

Both tanks are big, weighing in at 70 tons. The differences lie mainly in their electronics and suspension. The M1A2 SEP v2 has a heavier suspension, giving it greater pulling power, as well as digital electronics and a Commander's Integrated Thermal Viewer, enabling the tank commander to see with infrared and night vision, the way a gunner does.

"It puts eyes all around the tank," said Blake Edwards, program manager for the M1A2 overhaul programs.

Quick, but thorough

The new inspect and repair program, known to maintenance experts as a 10/20 program, provides rapid turn-around on M1A2 SEP v2 tanks. Through this program, depot workers inspect each vehicle, perform all preventative maintenance and repair or replace all parts that are not functioning to standards.

"The vehicles are not disassembled the whole way," said Gary Geier, program manager for the M1A2 10/20 programs. "They are not overhaul vehicles, so the cycle time is a lot shorter."

During the summer of 2009, 63 tanks were repaired through this process. Another 18 were completed in November and December and shipped to Fort Hood, Texas, the last week of 2009. Now, workers anticipate repairing 174 in only five months.

"We cut our teeth last summer," said Geier. "Depot shops learned a lot through that program and are really going to be ramping up wide open in the next couple of weeks to complete the next 174 tanks."

The newly repaired vehicles are returned to service fully tested and functional with a fresh coat of paint.

More than just a dent

The depot has 20 battle-damaged M1A2 SEP v2 tanks workers will begin to completely overhaul this month. Because of the level of work needed on these vehicles, plans are to disassemble, repair and reassemble two or three each month, completing the contract in September.

"You are talking about a vehicle that is in need of nearly total replacement and we bring it up to the level of a new M1A2 SEP v2," said Edwards.

The program is helped through a partnership with depot tenant General Dynamics Land Systems. Last year, GDLS began to purchase many of the parts for the tanks, organizing them into kits and delivering them to the depot shops where the work is performed.

Each tank, no matter the condition it arrives in, returns to duty in like-new condition.

"The customer is the ultimate person we try to please at all costs," said Edwards.

M1A1 still rolling along

Though the two newest M1 programs are rapidly growing, the M1A1 tank program is still in high demand. Between February 2010 and June 2011 the depot plans to overhaul or reset 142 M1A1s for the Marine Corps and an additional 26 for the Army.

According to Larry Phillips, program manager for the M1A1 programs, approximately 18 M1A1s can be broken down each month into power packs, turrets, hulls and baskets of parts. The shops on depot then take the pieces, repair and rework where they are able, replace parts that cannot be salvaged and bring the entire vehicle back up to like-new condition.