Street Fighters: M1 Abrams TUSK Tank Conversions
TUSK stands for “Tank Urban Survival Kit,” and represents the American approach to the problem of employing tanks in urban situations where weapons elevation, protection placement, and other design elements aren’t designed to cope with key threats. The Leopard 2 PSO (Peace Support Operations) is another example of this kind of adaptation, albeit with a different combat engineering slant and camouflage improvements. France has its AZUR program for the Leclerc, and other vehicles as well. Israel’s Merkava tanks are seeing their own modifications, including a rear sniper porthole to go with its traditional under-armor mortar and space for infantry; now dedicated APC versions are also in the mix. What is certain is that combat in urban terrain is the way of the future, as demonstrated by trends over the last 15 years of major military engagements.
This article details the M1 TUSK kit, and covers associated purchases from 2006-2008…
M1 Abrams: The Tank Urban Survival Kit
American M1 Abrams TUSK upgrades include a RWS machine gun operated from inside the vehicle, a loader’s armor gun shield, a tank-infantry phone, Abrams reactive armor tiles, a remote thermal sight, and a power distribution box, as well as other key modifications that take many of the M1A1-SA “situational awareness” modifications and add a number of extra offensive and defensive systems designed to help the tank survive and fight on urban battlefields. See this article’s graphic for more.
Note that TUSK does not automatically upgrade a tank, which retains its earlier version – so they’re properly referred to as M1A1 TUSK, M1A2 TUSK, etc.
M1 Abrams TUSK: Contracts & Key Events
Unless otherwise specified, all contracts are issued by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, MI. Likewise, unless otherwise specified, General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, MI is the contract recipient.
April 16/08: A $44.8 million firm-fixed price contract for 2,832 loaders’ armor gun shields II to support the Abrams Tank Urban Survivability Kits. Work will be performed primarily in Lima, OH, and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/11. One bid was solicited on Oct 5/07 (W56HZV-06-G-0006).
March 5/07: BAE Systems announces a $950,000 contract from General Dynamics Land Systems to integrate and test their “Driver’s Rear View Camera (DRVC)” rear-view camera system as part of the TUSK upgrade. The system is a derivative of BAE’s Check-6, and installs into the tail light housings with no drilling or welding, and uses thermal imaging to let vehicle operators and crews see behind them while remaining inside the tank. The testing will happen in preparation for an expected initial production contract covering 505 DRVC systems for M1 tanks, which may indicate fits into the M1A1-SA “situational awareness” variant as well.
DRVC also will fit other vehicle types within the Army’s Heavy Brigade Combat Team, including the Bradley Combat Systems, the M113 family, the M88 Hercules tank recovery vehicle, and M109 self-propelled howitzers. BAE Systems release.
March 2/07: A $22.3 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for system technical support for the Abrams tank program to include tank urban survivability kits, stay back maintenance, field reset, and an Australian field service representative. Australia has ordered 59 M1A1 Abrams tanks, and took delivery of its first tanks in September 2006.
Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2011. This was a sole source contract initiated on Jun. 8, 2006 (W56HZV-07-C-0046).
Dec 8/06: A delivery order amount of $11.3 million as part of a $59.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for the Tank Urban Survivability Kit Counter Improvised Explosive Device enhancements for the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams Tank. Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (69%); and Lima, OH (31%); and is expected to be complete on April 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 19, 2006 (W56HZV-06-G-0006).
GDLS’ December 12 pres release says the $11 million modification is “to produce Tank Urban Survivability Kit (TUSK) Counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) enhancements for 250 M1A1- and M1A2-series Abrams main battle tanks.”
Aug 29/06: A General Dynamics release says that the U.S. Army has awarded General Dynamics Land Systems $45 million to produce and install 505 Tank Urban Survivability Kits (TUSK) for Abrams main battle tanks supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. We asked GDLS how this fit with the $21.7 million Aug 10/06 contract; they replied that their announcement covers two contracts. The August 10, 2006 contract is for buying the material, building and kitting the gear that comprises the TUSK upgrade. This announced amount is for the labor associated with installing them. Which, for those of us who have taken our cars in for upgrades or repairs, seems about right.
Aug 15/06: General Dynamics Land Systems in Burlington, VT received a $30.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for Abrams Reactive Armor tile sets. Work will be performed in McHenry, MS (80%), and Burlington, VT (20%), and is expected to be complete by August 11, 2009. There were 8 bids solicited on May 23, 2006, and 3 bids were received by the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-06-C-0179).
A subsequent General Dynamics release notes that the total contract value could reach $59 million if all contract options are exercised.
Aug 10/06: General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, MI received the full delivery order amount of $21.7 million for tank urban survivability kits for the Abrams M1A1/A2 tanks. Work will be performed in Lima, OH (61%), Tallahassee, FL (17%), Sterling Heights, MI (16%), and Westminster, MD (6%), and is expected to be complete by May 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 19, 2006 by the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-06-G-0006).
- US Army – (Feb 19/08) – Modified M1-A2 Abrams Tanks Improve Safety, Precision