According to the Army’s Chief of Staff, Mark Milley, the Army needs “breakthrough” technologies, rather than incremental advancements in its tank program.  While the venerable M1A2 Abrams has proven itself in combat time and time again, the forty-year-old platform is beginning to show signs of age, and “incremental” tech upgrades only promise to weigh the war-horse down, rather than improve its combat effectiveness.

According to Miley, incremental technological upgrades to America’s tanks would include a more powerful 140-mm main gun, a more efficient turbine or diesel engine, and upgraded or additional armor, but would otherwise remain the same platform we’ve seen in use for decades.  The problem, he surmises, is that such advancements would also dramatically increase the weight of the vehicle, resulting in a slower, less nimble tank.

The Abrams entered service at an already healthy 58 tons, with a large 105-millimeter main gun.  Today, the latest American tanks weigh in at 70 tons, and are armed with a 120-millimeter gun.  Russia’s new flagship tank, the T-14 Armata, is expected to boast a much larger 152-millimeter main gun system that will come standard with the latest in Russian armor penetration technology.

The T-14 Armata tank in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

The problem with simply upgrading our existing tanks with bigger guns, and especially more armor, is that the result is a bloated war machine that may not be able to compete with the newest advancements offered by competitor states like Russia.  At the very least, America’s armored battle supremacy could easily be called into question if we attempt to field a heavier Abrams against the likes of the T-14.