Even tanks are not invulnerable, you know

Last night I posted on the recent (well, continuing) questions about the viability of the Stryker on the battlefield. But, as we all should know, nothing is perfect. Even the M1 Abrams tank: U.S. To Add Survivability Gear To Tanks (subscription only):

The U.S. Army will field its tank urban survivability kit in Iraq this summer, outfitting the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams with additions such as reactive armor, belly armor, thermal sights for the loader and a second .50-caliber machine gun.

The package, known as TUSK, was on display at the 2007 Armor Warfighting Conference April 29 to May 3 here.

–The guys can’t wait,” said Capt. David Centeno, assistant product manager of the TUSK program. –They need this stuff. Every time I go [to Iraq] they ask, ‘When will we get it?'”

Centeno, fresh off a recent trip to Iraq, will return in July to coordinate the fielding of the kits, which will begin in earnest in September, he said. In all, 565 kits will be sent to Iraq over a year.
–The goal is by fall next year, all tanks will be fitted with TUSK,” Centeno said.

MO has covered TUSK before, and for background and images, see The M1 Streetbrawler. (And note that I linked, back in early 2005, to a story entitled Tanks take a beating in Iraq. Sometimes I wonder how good something would have to be to be acceptable to the press…)

And it’s not going to stop with this roll-out.

As the Army begins fielding TUSK, work continues on TUSK II, which will include a rear-view camera for the driver.

Centeno said he hopes to field the cameras in May or June 2008. A similar camera also is in the works for the Bradley armored vehicle.

Also part of TUSK II are 360-degree barriers to protect the tank commander and the loader.
TUSK III is in the works and could include remote-operated weapons systems. Testing is under way to determine which system would work best for the Abrams, Centeno said.

The remote-operated weapon system is shown in the M1 Streetbrawler picture, but apparently won’t be part of the TUSK I program.

UPDATE: Trampoline armor to the rescue?


  1. Some of the items require major upgrades, I’ll allow. But some of those improvements .. What is keeping the unit that owns the tank from welding a mount for a second M2 and calling it a day?

  2. ‘What is keeping the unit that owns the tank from welding a mount for a second M2 and calling it a day?’ Right on Brian. It’s an idea that has been done numerous times in the past. Like sawing the stock off the M-79. Hell you didn’t need a wooden stock to make a blooper work effectively. And it was easy to slip into a ruck while you were doing business with your M-16. F.E.M. (Field Expedient Modification) may be a thing of the past. Why? Most lawyers dislike the military and love MONEY. What if your M2 mount broke lose during a firefight and the gunner got killed trying to retrieve it. I can envision the ambulance chasing leaches knocking on the grieving family’s door with a case the weapon wasn’t officially authorized.

  3. Toejam, Easy fix: ‘Gunner! Target! 3 O’clock! Ambulance in the open, lawyers dismounted. Load Flechette!’ Heh….. Respects,

  4. MO: As with just about every aspect of martial life, the broader American public doesn’t understand that tracked vehicles can be delicate. Even before bad people throw penetrators through them.

  5. If we refurbished one of the old Iowa class battleships, and put treads on it, we could not only crush our enemies with the immense firepower of the nine main guns, we could literally crush our enemies by driving over them, and the towns that they live in. It goes without saying that an Iowa class main battle tank would be largely immune to the LBIED, or Large Buried Improvised Explosive Device. And, as Geeklethal suggests, we could (in keeping with the doctrine of transformation) equip the Iowa class main battle tanks with fleets of recoverable uav surveillance and attack drones.

  6. It goes without saying that an Iowa class main battle tank would be largely immune to the LBIED, or Large Buried Improvised Explosive Device. Unless the LBIED takes out one of the tracks. Then you’ll need to call up a recovery vehicle. I hear the Navy is retiring Enterprise – mount tracks and some really big cranes on the flight deck ….

  7. Buckethead, Hey… watch that stuff about BB’s now… 🙂 However, now that you mention it, tracking the BB might be a cool idea. What you do, though, is use several sets of tracks, and build them like the crawler/transport NASA uses for the old Saturn-V (I’m dating myself here) and the Shuttle….. Then, you replace the dual-5′ mounts with M-109 armoured turrets, so the Army can come and play too….. heh. Criminy… can you imagine direct-fire from a 16′ gun?????

  8. Making an Iowa ground mobile is easy. All we have to do is grab some of the shuttle crawlers and mount the ship. Maybe add some turbo’s to get the ground speed up a bit. The money saved by not launching the shuttles could make the Iowa refurbishment and conversion cost neutral. A win win all they around. Of course you will have to add several Phalanx systems to protect against ground based zombie attacks.

  9. Bram, If you’re of Keith Laumer decent, it’s Bolos. I’m more from the Steve Jackson school, so in my book they’re Ogres. Tomayto, tomahto. As for 16′ direct fire someone mentioned- tricky, if they’re, I dunno, 80′ off the ground or so. But if we can have a crawling BB then we can have direct fire naval artillery too. With the biggest flechette rounds you ever saw…

  10. I like Laumer but I’m more of a Niven / Pournelle guy – so lets give the Iowa thermonuclear propulsion and call it ‘Orion.’

  11. Of course you will have to add several Phalanx systems to protect against ground based zombie attacks. That’s great for the long distance threat – but we also need to protect against close-in zombies. They may overwhelm Phalanx, or bury themselves in the dirt until the Iowa gets real close .. You’ll need up-sized command detonated claymore mines against the hull. Many many of them.

  12. Brian, I like the way you think. Give ’em proximity detonators, too. Anything gets within x meters and blammo. Thermals won’t work, as the legions of slavering undead would surely be ambient temperature at all times. Bram, Buckethead now has his military/sci-fi trifecta: An old school BB that operates fleets of UAVs *and* has an Orion drive. Oh, plus- PLUS- undead defense measures are built into the design. He’s not get anything done today…

  13. I read a sci-fi novel a while ago where they had these massive train things that shot super-heated steam out of the sides to clear off close-range attackers. The problem, of course, is that it would convert the zombies to skeletons, which aren’t quite as high on the undead ladder as sombies, but nonetheless can be a threat. Skeletons are harder to hit with bullets, but they do fold pretty easily. So perhaps some kind of combination steam blast/rotating knives? Okay, now we’re getting WAAY off topic. On a slightly more serious note. Back around the days of World War 1 the concept of a ‘land battleship’ was explored. The problem was that they were too slow, and you could always just build a bigger gun to take out the lumbering brutes. Still, you’d need a pretty massive gun to sink an Iowa, especially if it’s on dry land…

  14. Personally, I’ve played OGRE in the WAYBACK times. Most recently I play Warhammer 40K. Imperial Guard. Lots of tanks… Soo… I’m thinking that, to deal with the Zombie/undead threat, besides all the reactive/claymore belts, you could put some sponsons (armoured, of course) on the hull, like the early Dreadnaughts had, and fill them either with flame-cannons, or, ideally, plasma cannons. With a nuclear plant for the main energy system, you’d have all the power you needed to generate plasma, and that’s MORE than hot enough to vaporize zombies… Plus, you get that sweet elctrical/ozone smell afterwards, and a little pile of powdered Zombie, which you could then give to the Bos’n Mates for Holystoning the teak decks….. Win/Win All we need is some Sisters of Battle with power armour and heat weapons… and a humongous PA system to play music whilst in conbat…. heh.. Respects,

  15. Murdoc, Oh, hey…. how’s it going, eh? Anything you need done while I’m hanging around here? Sorry…. I got caught up in the coversation. Anytime someone links Zombies, Battleships and Treadheads, well, I’m all for it…. Now if I could just figure out how to add ASW ops and Goth-Country music, the world would be complete.. sigh… Oh… and bourbon. Lot’s of Bourbon. Evan Williams if possible, but Knob Creek will work just fine as well… heh respects,

  16. Bram, What about the puppeteers? I am also a big fan of Pournelle and Niven, and especially David Drake. Bill Forstchen’s also a good writer, and his ‘Lost Regiment’ series was pretty neat. Orion, eh? This ol’ AW likes the sound of that name….. 🙂 Respects,

  17. Murdoc: The worst part is that I recognize all of their references and have most of the books on the shelf 3′ from me. Can’t call it a BOLO until you add the Hellbores and especially the AI. Pre-BOLO (As in pre-dreadnaught)…

  18. The Orion was in ‘Footfall’ although the idea has been around much longer than that.

  19. DJ, the Ministry is dead-set against the use of AI in military equipment. That would turn our Iowa MBT into a giant fighting robot, and that would not be cool. I mean, the terminator could be killed in a press, I don’t think we could do the same to a battleship with nine 16′ guns. And Phalanx anti-zombie systems, proximity-fused claymore belts at ground level, steam-powered rotating knives, and plasma guns. We’d have, as the saying goes, ‘Issues.’ However, as Nicholas pointed out, the concept of the land battleship goes back nearly a century, and the Iowas themselves are over six decades old themselves. (Can you believe we’re closing in on the hundred year anniversary of the Great War? Damn.) Lest our enemies think that we are merely reviving old technology and thus mired in the past – the uav fleets will seem like tokenism, I fear) we need to update the Iowa MBT to the highest levels of technology. The Iowa MBT could serve as a mobile command and control center. It should be equipped with something like the JSTARS radar to allow rapid acquisition and targeting of ground-based threats. It should have pebble-bed nuclear reactors to provide power for advanced weaponry. As new weapons like lasers and such come on line, we could add anti-missile and anti-aircraft lasers which would give look-shoot-kill capabilities out to the limit of visibility. UAVs could provide over the horizon attach capabilities, and we could build launch tubes for them like on the old Battlestar Galactica. Once we develop effective railguns, we could replace the conventional big gun turrets with those. But for maximum effect, we could build longer railguns that run down the spine of the ship. It’s not as good as the big gun from Starblazers, but still pretty good. You could probably get suborbital shots with a gun that long. Funny thing, is that the whole deal would likely be cheaper than the DD(X).

  20. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, the moral/philosophical objections against common sense defenses against the zombie hordes (And Phalanx anti-zombie systems, proximity-fused claymore belts at ground level, steam-powered rotating knives, and plasma guns.’) will quickly be brushed aside. On an unrelated note, I believe that the 16inch guns were used in the 60’s to launch sub-orbtal shells. HARP program For long range shots a range was established at Barbados, where the payloads could be sent eastward over the Atlantic. A surplus 125 tonne US Navy 16 inch gun was used as the launcher. The standard 20 m barrel was extended to 36 m, and converted to a smooth-bore. In 1962 – 1967 Bull launched over 200 atmospheric probes to altitudes of up to 180 km.

  21. * THIS * is why I read this blog. Great post Murdoc. Keep up the good work. And by ‘work’ I mean shaking head sadly in disbelief as the comments roll in. : ) PS. If a group of Ninjas was hit by the Zombie rage virus would they be worse than your average zombie or are all zombies pretty much equal. That should be worth another 30 or so comments from the Ministry folks.

  22. A couple points: To ‘r’: In essence, we plan on Romero zombies who can be re-killed by massive head trauma. Strictly speaking- and I’m not playing lawyer-ball here, just sayin’-the 28 Days Later/rage virus victims were’t zombies. But hey, they can all be killed just as dead after taking the 12 gauge taste test, so in that regard, yes, they are all equal. Never included in these discussions though are Evil Dead zombies, what want to eat your brains and, even if thoroughly destroyed, can reconstitute seemingly from their component atoms. Because all that’s just *ridiculous*. James: regarding your suborbital artillery comment- the fact there was a ‘surplus’ 16′ gun was the saddest thing I read all day. THey should all be fully employed. Buckethead (et al): Aside form the usual problem of speed vs firepower vs mobility, which is largely solved if you’re running your system with fusion reactors, you have a tremendous capital investment in a single object. Our mighty orion-drive land dreadnaught would not be so mighty against an enemy with a single robust nuke.

  23. Shipmates, To bring the thing full-crcle, however, we ought to design in some armoured hanger areas where we can stow a battalion of M1 TUSK mod’d tanks, to unleash upon the hordes of retreating undead…. Just a thought. BTW: There are still a number of 16′ barrels stored up in Idaho, if memory serves me correctly. In case like, anyone was shopping for a couple, or three… Respects,

  24. Our mighty orion-drive land dreadnaught would not be so mighty against an enemy with a single robust nuke.’ Well considering Pre-Iowa battleship (USS New York)took two nukes plus dozens of direct fire cannon and torpedo hits to sink. Our Orion/Iowa should be able to take a few hits.