From the Army News Service, March 9, 2005:
By Eric W. Cramer
WASHINGTON -- The Abrams tank is growing a TUSK - that's Tank
Urban Survival Kit, a series of improvements, including some
still in development.
TUSK will allow Soldiers in the field to improve the Abrams'
ability to survive in urban areas off the traditional battlefield
for which it was designed.
Lt. Col. Michael Flanagan, product manager for TUSK, said
the goal is to help improve the tank's survivability.
"You have to remember, the tank was a Cold War design,
aimed at a threat that was always to its front. It's still the
most survivable weapon in the arsenal from the front," Flanagan
said. "Today it's a 360-degree fight, and these systems
are designed to improve survivability in that urban environment."
The TUSK includes additional protection at the loader's gun
station on the turret, the commander's gun station, reactive
armor to protect the tank's side from attack by rocket-propelled
grenades and slat armor to protect the tank's rear from the same
weapon, and the tank/infantry telephone to allow infantry and
armor Soldiers to work together in combat.
Flanagan said all the proposed upgrades use "off the
shelf" technology, and the goal is for the entire TUSK to
be applied by units in the field, without requiring a return
to a depot for modification.
"The reactive armor, for example, is a product similar
to what's on the Bradley (Armored Fighting Vehicle)," Flanagan
said. "It's explosive armor that protects the vehicle."
Another example would be the slat armor designed to protect
the tank's rear from RPG attack. It is similar in design and
concept to the slat armor used on the Stryker armored vehicles
for the same purpose.
The first TUSK component to reach the field has been the Loader's
Armored Gun Shield, which provides protection to the loader when
the Soldier is firing the 7.62mm machinegun on the Abrams' turret.
Flanagan said about 130 of the shields have already been purchased
and sent to units in Iraq. Also incorporated into the loader's
firing position is a thermal sight, giving the position the ability
to locate and fire on targets in the dark.
"This is the same unit that is used on machineguns carried
by infantry troops, and we've incorporated it into the loader's
position," Flanagan said. He said a system that attaches
a pair of goggles to the sight, allowing the loader to fire the
gun from inside the turret, while seeing the thermal sight's
image, is under development.
Also under development are improvements to the commander's
station outside the turret, although different systems are necessary
for the M-1A2 Abrams and its older M1-A1 brethren.
"Because of things we added to the turret in the A2,
the commander's station had lost the ability to shoot the .50-caliber
machinegun while under armor," Flanagan said. "We're
developing a Remote Weapons Station, that will probably be similar
to the one used on the Stryker, to allow that weapon to be fire
from inside the turret."
Flanagan said the design could also allow the use of the crewed
weapon station used on Humvees, but a final determination hasn't
Ultimately, most of these add-ons will be incorporated into
a kit - installed in the field and removed in the field as a
pre-positioned component for the next Abrams unit to take duty
in that location. Flanagan said some kits will begin to reach
the field later this year.
At least some of the kits' components may also be included
in new Abrams' production.
"The loader's shield and the remote weapons station,
and the tank/infantry telephone all may be included as regular
production items in the tank," Flanagan said. "It's
important to remember that the Abrams will continue to be the
dominant weapons system for the Army until at least 2030."