Army to Review M1 Engine Upgrades


On orders from Congress, the U.S. Army will review whether it makes sense to upgrade the M1 Abrams tank engine with a more fuel-efficient design.

The Army has about 6,000 Abrams, the service’s main battle tank made by Falls Church, Va.-based General Dynamics Corp. Thousands of the hulking vehicles, each weighing about 70 tons, sit idle at a depot in southern California.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno last year testified that the service has plenty of tanks to respond to any global contingency and asked for permission to temporarily stop buying newly refurbished versions to fund other priorities, such as helicopters and other vehicles being heavily used in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers denied the request. Now, they’re giving the service $90 million it didn’t want for the so-called upgrade program, according to a copy of the recently approved 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The tank funding “that the Pentagon hasn’t even requested” is an example of the way in which the legislation “is out of touch with reality,” William Hartung, an author and director of the Arms & Security Project at Center for International Policy, a research organization based in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

The bill, noting the Army and Marine Corps don’t plan to replace M1A1 or M1A2 versions of the tank, calls for the services to consider replacing “the current engine with a modern, fuel efficient power train.”

It directs Army Secretary John McHugh and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to submit a report to the congressional defense committees by June 1 “on a business case analysis and an investment strategy” to add a modern fuel-efficient engine and transmission for the M1, according to a copy of the legislation.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • S O

    It might actually make sense to replace the turbines in some battalions with diesel engines, but 90 million should be enough to actually replace engines in a few battalions, not just to study whether it makes sense.

    We already know there’s an export version with the EuroPowerPack (which in turn is known to be excellent).

    • Mitchell Fuller

      Diesel power packs would also increase the range of the tank and reduce size of supply train needed to keep them fueled and rolling = lower cost of operations / less vulnerability of supply train.

    • HM Rodriguez

      yeah, but the way this administration think, they probably will want prius engines for the tanks, and it will be like everything else big talk no results SMH.

    • JCitizen

      I didn’ think a diesle would fit in the module bay? That turbin is pretty compact – unless the air filter space is considered – that may be a factor.

    • Recoveryman

      The EUROPACK is an MTU engine and a Renk transmission. Neither supplier is particularly trustworthy, given the failed attempt to replace the M88 engine with an MTU engine and Renk reduction gearbox. What started out as a big cost saver turned into a nightmare of increasing development costs and delayed introduction.

      I wouldn’t trust either MTU or Renk ever again.

  • Considering the M1 is now over 30 years old and built with 1970s technology perhaps it’s high time to start development of a replacement – one more mobile, less pointed at a northern European battlefield and less vulnerable to down firing anti tank warheads.

  • sharkey

    I wonder at the stilted point of view regarding tanks as an asset in future combat situations. If I were to enter combat anywhere with the proliferation of anti-tank anti-armor weapons which appear to be in the hands of nearly every fighting group I see in the news or on TV I’d be terrified. During WWII and other conflicts I remember reading the expected life expectancy of Tankers (crews) as being very short. What is it today? Further, with the development of drones and “lookdown shoot down” weapons do the existing tanks have any defense for that? All this coming from a submariner, me.

  • ronaldo

    I worked on a new engine program for the M-1 about 10 years ago. The objective was to have a common advanced turbine engine for both the M-1 and the new Crusader mobile 155mm gun vehicle. Of course the Crusader program was cancelled and unfortunately the common engine program went with it. I believe the selected turbine was also supplied by (now) Honeywell.

    Can any of you shed any light on this recent history ?

  • Bernard

    Why are we wasting money on something the Army doesn’t want? Even if you improve it’s fuel efficiency it’s still a 70 ton tracked vehicle. Supporting it on the battlefield is a huge logistical undertaking regardless of fuel needs.

  • DB-1

    To Bernard: The survival rate in IRAQ and Afghanistan wars is very impressive for Tankers if you and anyone on this Blog think Tanks are out dated. I beg to Differ ask anyone with first hand knowledge and they will tell you… or go ask an insurgent who thought like you.

    • Tanker

      Roger that, 22 years as a tanker..M48..M60 series as well as M1 series, they are not outdated in any way, as long as they are used properly and are still needed. Yes the M1 series is a little hard on fuel due to the turbine engine, but we have had them so long and they can be worked on without learning a whole new system..

    • ricky robertson

      as a tank mechanic, i KNOW how does IN-THE-KNOW admins. get the idea TANKS are useless? if you want to KNOW ask a grunt or any other soldier if a tank is useless.

  • hibeam

    I’m working on an inflatable M1-A1. It has the same carbon footprint as a hippie.

  • tmb2

    Our fleet as a whole needs to do better on fuel economy in the future. An M1 gets something like half a mile/gallon and the most heavily armored humvees get around five mpg. It’s a matter of physics that more armor= more fuel, but there are engine technologies allowing us for better fuel economy without sacrificing too much power. It’s worth the expense to explore those options. The line about “the Army didn’t want this” probably has more to do with budget priorities than anything else. The former GCV competition was to involve a hybrid drive to deal with such issues.

  • john

    Most re-engine programs pay for themselves with the fuel they save. A modern design should also be more dependable. Based on this and the reduced supply train costs for the fuel a program with these goals makes sense. A link with information would be helpful to see if this program has the same goals. Also how does this match up with the modernization program that the army is planning for this tank at the end of this decade?

  • I’m afraid if the military starts getting rid of tanks, my local police department will start using them.

    I wonder where the next war will be? Will it be on the seas with China, the plains of Europe against Russia, or the middle east? And if it’s the middle east, will the next dictator we need to take out stand by like Iraq’s Saddam Hussien and let us ship half of the US’s war inventory to the middle east UNCHALLENGED!

    Please… I just don’t think we need a lot of new tanks. Sell the to Europe and India.

  • SJE

    This actually makes sense. For every tank crew member that we save by putting them in 70 tons of armor, there are many more drivers of fuel trucks that are being killed trying to feed these beasts. The Taliban doesnt attack our M1s, but attacks the fuel convoys riding through the Khyber pass. Supply chains are the classic weak points in any protracted conflict.

    Plus, perhaps troops can actually walk behind the tanks without being fried by turbine exhaust.

  • moondawg

    We don’t know where the next war will be and with who. We can be sure there will be a next war and it will probably be a land war. Those 7000 M1s may be invaluable. More fuel efficient ones are a win win. Addressing what the Army wants is another matter. What the Army wants isn’t always what the Army needs. The Army wants to spend tens of millions of $$ on camouflage uniforms de jour. In WWII prior to D Day, the U.S. had a heavy tank ready to go into production. The Army didn’t want it and refused it. They though the obsolete Sherman was OK. They even turned down the up gunned Sherman the Brits were using. Consequently, the German Tigers, Panthers, and up gunned MRK IVs destroyed Shermans by the thousands and we literally ran out of tank crews. by the end of 1944 we were making infantryman instant tankers. Read “Death Traps” by B.Y. Cooper, a tank officer in the 3d Armored Div.

  • Stan

    I think we had a jet engine in a tank long enough, it’s time to upgrade to a rocket engine. I figure F1 might do the trick. The tank will of course carry about 1/1000s (give or take) of a second worth of fuel but that should be enough for a 200 mile trip. Maneuvering might be an issue.

  • phil

    How about sticking a VW TDI engine in them ;-)

  • Big-Dean

    How about sticking a Toyota Prius engine in there, that way all of the tankers can then act like pious jerks ;-P

    It’ll be called the P3 (Pious Prius People) engine

    • Guest

      No. Just drive it the Flintstone way.

  • Chuck

    Congress wants the military to put money into the main battle tank — i.e. the tip of the spear. The military wants to put money into pie-in-the-sky, overbudget aviation programs.

    Which group is out of touch with reality, again?

  • Adam
  • As has been said by moondawg, sometimes what the Army wants isn’t what the Army needs. The M1 is an outstanding tank whose greatest shortcoming is that it uses almost as much fuel idling as it does at full speed across the battlefield. This is a fundamental reality of a turbine engine. An M1 equipped with a diesel that provides similar performance would ease a bit of the logistical tail. For a military that must deploy to the fight, this is a critical need. We cannot rely on an enemy that allows us time to build a force on the border.

  • Hunter76

    Re our last 3 semi-major wars (the 2 “Gulfs” and Afgan):

    Does anyone think they would have gone differently without the M1?

    (Does anyone else think it’s ironic that the “Gulf” wars had essentially nothing to do with the Gulf?)

  • john
    Info on the upgrade and saveings about halfway down

  • whoszat

    I wonder what an unmanned tank design would look like.

    What is the appropriate armor/speed/weapon balance when there are no crew to kill?
    What is the right size and geometry when there is no crew compartment or driver?

  • Big-Dean

    Hey, I’m not a tanker nor an Army dude. But from this Navy’s guy’s perspective, even though the turbine engines uses a lot of fuel, the turbine engine is one of the greatest strengths of the M1, it makes it : very fast, very low noise signature, no black smoke and generally low maintainance.

    The gas turbine engine has lots of advantages, and as you know almost the entire Navy fleet is gas turbine powered: low maintenance, quick ramp up to speed, etc.

    As for the concern that “idling” uses a lot of fuel, that’s simple, turn it off and use the APU to power electronics and a AC while your sitting. You only need to have the main engine running if you in a hot shooting situation and need to move quickly.

  • IronV

    Much to everyone’s surprise, the M1 distinguished itself in URBAN combat in Iraq–so much so the Army went a step further resulting in the SEP and TUSK upgrades aimed at static, urban combat. The M1 was a real life saver in Iraq. Quite literally.

    • ronaldo

      There’s lots of nits to pick with your statements, but the SEP origins had nothing to do with Iraq other than coincidence. TUSK is Iraq experience driven. But what you do not mention has nothing to do with the tank itself.

      It was the GD Armament Systems case shot. That’s right, a real 120mm shotgun with tungsten balls. The normal sabot and HE shells were worth practically nothing in the urban environment but a crash development for the case shot did make a difference.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    Nothing beats another armoured main battle tank than having your very own…in quality and in great quantity.

    Better to have them now then “regret” not having them or sooner.

  • Vitsing

    The Land Warfare folks supporting GD have deep pockets and Lobbyist to get funding even if the Army does not want it. Likewise, the folks supporting UDP (M-2 also do well with their Lobbyist.

  • The Honeywell-GE LV100-5 gas turbine was to offer improved reliability and greatly reduced fuel consumption on move and at idle. If nothing else the LV100-5 showed the capability of a new technology turbine engine.

    In Feb of 2013 the latest version of the XM360 120mm main gun hit a milestone goal of 16Mj muzzle energy. That would be a significant upgrade over the 120mm L/55 and more than the possible 140mm gun upgrade. The XM360 is also planned to be a couple tons lighter than current M256.

    Advances in lightweight composites for use in Abrams armor panels and the use of fiber optics over wire in Abrams are intended to help lower overall weight of vehicle.

    More potent main gun, improved fuel economy and reliability while keeping advantages of gas turbine, reduced weight and enhanced sensors and C3

    • ronaldo

      Did the LV100-5 work well or…..?

      Thnks in advance !

    • DBM

      We wouldn’t even be thinking od a gun upgrade if they left the DU rounds alone. The army successfully tested a beyond line of sight system for the abrams using drones for targeting info and round still retained sufficient energy to take out a tank at well beyond 3 miles. The Russians have nothing that can touch us now and their best tanks have all kinds of weak spots on their turret and chassis.
      I can’t help but believe the true reason for anyone even considering going to a 140 mm gun would be because the next gen Russian tank will have a 152mm (dick measuring contest, we got the Bradley because the cav generals were envious of the Russian BMP and the styker because of the Russians BTRs) ) which is probably a cross between wanting to overmatch the abrams armor and the desire to use them more effectively as direct fire artillery for infantry support. Wouldn’t be surprised if they cam out with bot short and long barreled versions. Long barrels on tanks tend to make them suck at urban warfare to hard to maneuver and travers the gun to get at unexpected close targets.

      BTW back to the screwing up of the army procurement of equipment, back in WW2 the army realized that SP Artillery assets could not keep up with tanks and had a hard time keeping up with infantry at times. Since then the goal (supposedly) has been to field an SP artillery vehicle that can keep up with the mech forces. When the M-1 was first being fielded their was even talk of converting a bunch of the M-60’s into 155 SP howitzers. Except in open desert thunder runs the M-60 could easily stay up with M-1’s and M-2’s which is true.
      BTW The gun ports on the M-2 came from the soviet vehicles which turned into another fiasco. First we realized back in the 70’s that a big reason the soviet forces were getting their butts kicked was because Soviet troops refused to dismount, close with and kill the enemy. They wanted to stay in the perceived safety of the vehicle. Putting the gun ports on the M-2 made it necessary to make shorter barreled weapons to be able to maneuver in the troop area but it also shortened the range of the weapon (remember grossly pre A2 days) and added substantially to the developmental and production costs.
      The hummer was another fiasco. after extensive testing when they first fielded to the 82nd they found that the brake pedals broke off during hard braking and they were to wide to drive down the logging trails in Germany so we had to pay the germans hundreds of millions to cut down the trees and for future lost tree production. In Schwienfurt they built a brand new tank maintenance facility for the base to support the M-1s to be fielded. They opened the facility the day the Div officially accepted the M-1-s and then someone suddenly realized that the bay doors were to narrow for the M-1 and the floor and maintenance racks wouldn’t support the weight of an M-1. Everything had been built to spec for the M-60.

      Any of you guys old enough to remember the M-9 procurement and how the came apart or blew up in peoples faces at almost exactly the 200th round fired? They ordered the wrong ammo from Israel. They ordered the ammo loaded for the full sized Uzi which was to powerful for use in a pistol.

      How about the M-249? First the army removed the pressure switch on it that was needed to increase gas pressure temporarily to blow out carbon fouling. However it upped the cyclic rate to 900 rds per minute and the brass said army soldiers didn’t have the discipline to keep it at 700. Then they shortened the stock to a point of uselessness. To compound the problem the army had started buying aluminum mags where soon became known as the number one cause of feeding failures in M-16s. They screwed up the ammo loading machines for the 249 linked ammo so had to use mags for the first 6 months. Major problem: The 249s won’t work with aluminum mags as one use spreads the retainers and causes double feeds. They started buying steel mags and then went back to aluminum mags again and cant figure out why troops love PMAGs. The list goes on and on.

      • Experts have guesstimated and brainstormed what features and abilities will be in next gen Soviet Armor. It is estimated that US and NATO will need about 16Mj muzzle energy to penetrate the next gen Russian or Chinese armor. One way to reach this goal is increasing size to a prior NATO agreement of 140mm. The other way is a very high impulse 120mm gun such as the US XM360. Last I read test firings of the then latest XM360 version had surpassed the 16Mj muzzle energy goal. The XM360 is compatible with the M1 chassis and fires all standard NATO 120mm ammo.

  • Lance

    Never got why the Army if they see the performance of the Abrams slip make a new tank??? We wasted Billions on ICC GCV and JLTV while we may need a new tank. Shows Army brass don’t think past there personal pocket check books.

    I dont see a problem for a new engine as a stop gap upgrade for the Abrams. Why not we don’t need GCV scrap it upgrade the Abrams and Id say Bradley as well.

    • Big Daddy

      I agree, even with the Bradley. The problem is that the Army always wants one thing to do everything, it makes everything cost more and not work as well. Maybe some day they will figure out it’s best to have overlapping systems that do one thing well and others just OK. A tank is a tank, an APC is an APC and so on. We do not have a real Recon vehicle, that is what is needed. As a former Scout I can say the last true recon vehicle was a M114 and it was terrible but they were on the right track so to speak. The Bradley is a horrible recon vehicle.

  • TonyC.

    The M1 is very thirsty and that creates the need for thin skinned logistics to support it.
    The best idea to upgrade the M1 is for to increase the fuel efficiency. The tank itself is still relevant and even though the design is 30 years old, the US adversaries still can’t counter it.

  • Tony S

    I read quite a few posts, but not all. I think everyone has missed the mark. This isn’t about making the Army do something they didn’t request or to get better fuel economy. This is about awarding a new contract to GM or Chrysler. Now that the Government has dried up on giving free money to the 2 car makers, a new way need to be invented to feed cash to the Government owned Auto Makers. Sorry Ford, you aren’t invited to this buffet!

  • Zspoiler

    Its just more pork . They should pay for equipment we need and pay and benefits..Not on redesigning new uniforms etc.

  • Jaime Kinkelwicz
  • CaptainDoc

    the thinking of saving money by upgrading the engines is pure nonsense. the tank is a tank at 70 tons what do you expect? fuel savings if the engine tripled the mileage would not pay for the new upgrade in 20 years. just do what the machine was designed for: a tank. it is not a Toyota or Chevrolet it is a tank. tanks get good mileage considering what they carry, what the initial weight of and what the missions are. in other word just don’t do anything to it, just use it when needed. if not needed then store them, they will not become obsolete. the tanks will only become obsolete in someone’s mind. the m1a1 and m1a2 are the best in the world(look at how many are sold to other governments)” if it works don’t fix it “. there are very few retrofits to ANY military equipment that in the end make a better piece of equipment they just upgrade some ones bank account

  • DBM

    The bottom line here is that as rare as it is the congress is right on this one. We shouldn’t have any A1’s left in the inventory. They should all be upgraded. Additionally with only one tank building facility left in America shutting its doors for 4 yrs as the army wants is the same as closing it permanently. Guess the army wants to outsource tank maintenance and building to china to save money. We already can’t build anything without them anyway.

  • Big Daddy

    Great tank, I worked with them when they were first deployed while in the 11th ACR. We could not keep up with them, we had the M113 series of vehicles. The M60s were being called Tankasorous or something like that when compared to the M1. It is a great tank for sure but does need a new powerpack without a doubt. No it’s not a perfect design but as good as it comes. The weak link is the need for fuel, if they can replace it with another engine and transmission (only 4 forward gears) that requires less fuel and retains at least the same performance the savings will pay for it and the lives not lost will be worth it. As long as we have to fight on other shores anything that will help with resupply costs of men and money is a good thing, don’t ya think?

  • Pork. Military Industrial complex up to it’s usual SOP. Then again, there may be some members in Congress who are so super smart they came up with this on their own. But I bet if you drill down to who introduced the Bill and Co-sponsors you’ll find them benefiting. All these jerk offs just throwing OUR money around to each other for personal gain. As far as they are concerned, the actual Military Benefits, if any end up being realized, are a nice addition but aren’t necessary to their end game, which is sucking the Treasury for every penny they can get. If I could only get my Representative to introduce a Bill funding my camouflage condoms R&D……

  • 45K20E4

    It’s not all about fuel economy. Remember that the turbine can run on just about any fuel that can be atomized. I always got a kick out of the label warning “Do not engage smoke generators when using jet fuel”

    Also, we saw far more failures of piston engines than we did the turbines. Durability goes a long way on the battlefield.

    • DBM

      I don’t take much stoke in failure reports. They are fudged to much to increase readiness ratings reports. Turbine engines are more expensive to replace so they aren’t reported as down until to many go down.

      Yes turbines can run on just about anything but wouldn’t recommend putting gasoline in them or the crap fuel that the russkis use. They use Bunker (or something south of it) and that’s probably one of the many reasons why they can’t keep their turbine engine tanks operational for long.

  • Drew

    I question the author’s numbers of 6000 M1 in the field. Considering that the Army is standing down one HBCT for the Active Component, that leaves only 174 per Active Component division (1st ID, 3rd ID, 4th ID, 1st Cav, 1st AD (just one HBCT) plus the 11th ACR. The ARNG has the 276th, 116th, 30th, 155th, 1st BCT/34th ID, as well as a few other units. Considering the total M1 fleet is 58 (56 + 2 ORF) per BCT, the number is closer to 1,300 rather 6,000 even including the prepo fleet. There were almost 6K made not 6000 actively fielded.

  • 2468bodw
  • Redleg65

    As a former Tanker (NCO) and Officer in the Artillery, we really need to maintain our M1 variant fleet of tanks. Sure we should also have a secondary lighter “Big Bore Gun” The Stryker (Very expensive) fits this need but again the Generals made a “All in One” Machine. I saw upfront Soviet models and Chinese models and while shorter and reliant on active armour, I strongly believe wars are won by maneuver and air support. Tanks have a major impact on the battlefield and Congress needs to reconsider the Artillery system (current system based on the M109) is over 55 years old. The Crusader would have helps in Afghanistan (without a doubt-tora bora) and help quick fire support for Infantry and armored units elsewhere. Air Support (Helicopters-Apaches/F-16’s/F-18’s etc) are not readily available and may never deploy, but Artillery can fire 24/7 with no weather issues. Artillery round $2k vs $800k for a cruise missile vs $80k for a Hellfire. Support the tank and Artillery and spread the love.

    • blight_

      A towed version of Crusader’s gun might’ve been interesting, but the thing was heavy. What are our options in towed-artillery-land?

  • gt350

    It seems we all agree that we have a great tank, so upgrade it and have it support a new weapons system, because its old doesn’t mean its not useful , how many country’s would want a M1 as back up!

  • JJC

    A new high speed Deltic Diesel may be worth considering. Napier’s engine once had the best power/weight ratio around. 36 pistons, no cylinder heads or valves. With modern design tools, materials and diesel combustion advancements – it may outperform the turbine and have superior efficiency.

  • W.S. Newman

    We are 17 trillion dollars in debt and they are still looking for ways to spend our money! Those tanks sitting there are not disabled or unserviceable, they are just not needed right now. Why not just let them sit there and do routine maintenance on them, as we would have to do, with a new engine or weapons system or something else? Use the savings to pay retired veterans and run hospitals for all those wounded warriors who were not lucky enough to have a “70 ton beast” to protect them. Semper Fi!

  • Peter Barker
  • There is little wrong with any government departments that is not the fault of the Congress. Those whores are so far into the arses of the defense industry they couldn’t pull out even if they wanted to. Every major decision by Congress is based on “Will it be good for me”, rather than will it be good for the nation or service.

  • Sarge

    I don’t like the way budgets (politicians) control the type of warfare we have. Tanks will be needed for the next decade, or until we build a “super laser” weapon. But then our lawmakers will be afraid to use the new weapon, and we’ll be back in the tanks. Our present fleet of M-1’s is old, and we have nothing in the budget for new ones. The only option is to provide our soldiers with a tank that is fast, up-to-date, and equipped with the latest weapons. Upgrade the tanks. When has our government ever worried about fuel cost, except to control the American people?

  • DBM

    What we need is a smaller lighter tank that is more easily transported to where its needed. We don’t need new or improved strykers.

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  • SFC 11M40J3

    I am a retired Army Platoon Sergeant and a Bradley IFV Master Gunner. During Desert Storm it pissed me off to no end that the tanks had the privilege of getting topped off during the ROM’s (Refuel on the Move). Then they would figure out how much fuel they had left, and ration the remaining amount to everyone else. When First Cavalry Division made the dash from Wadi Al Batine to VII Corps Breach (a drive longer and done faster than Patton’s relief push to Bastogne) the Bradley’s sometimes were running on fumes to the next ROM where once again the tankers got all they needed.
    We seriously need to diesel engine the M1. If it works for the Leopard and the Challenger why not the Abrams? Logistics are a bitch with out throwing in the need to pamper a prima donna vehicle.

    • DBM

      The army refused to sell Turkey M-1s because they wanted a diesel piston engine in it.
      Easier to maintain, a lot better fuel economy and deisel is a lot easier to come by than JP-4 and cheaper too.

      BTW Egypt has a ton of M-1’s produced locally under licence but have you noticed that you never seen them perform any of the population control operations? I’ve seen some M-60’s and a ton of T-55 and T-62s. They don’t have to constantly be idling to keep the batteries charged so don’t suck a lot of fuel.