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M1 Abrams Still Going Strong with Honeywell Jet Engine

M1 Abrams Still Going Strong with Honeywell Jet Engine

It’s been almost 50 years since a prototype tracked vehicle, equipped with a gas turbine jet engine, prevailed in head-to-head competition to become America’s premier main battle tank. Developed by Honeywell legacy company Avco Lycoming, the AGT1500 engine was the U.S. Army’s ultimate choice to power the legendary M1 Abrams tank.

“The AGT1500 shares design DNA with proven Honeywell helicopter turboshaft engine technology,” said Justin Paulus, Honeywell Director of Large Turboshaft Engines. “When it was selected for the XM1 tank prototype in 1973, the AGT1500 shattered the paradigm because it’s essentially a jet engine powering a military land vehicle for the first time. Diesel engines had always been the standard.”

Competition between the turbine and diesel prototypes at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1976 was intense. But in the end, the Army recognized that the AGT1500 had many advantages over the diesel-powered option.

“It offers a better power-to-weight ratio, allowing the 72-ton vehicle to accelerate from 0-to-20 mph in six seconds and reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour. It’s also much quieter, which earned the M1 Abrams the nickname ‘Whispering Death’ because of its ability to sneak up on the enemy,” Paulus said.

“The AGT1500 is designed for all environments, from sub-arctic conditions to extreme desert heat, and has instant power available. In addition, it has true multi-fuel capability allowing the AGT1500 to run on any available liquid fuel, without fuel system adjustments, and without producing visible smoke. These are great advantages for warfighters on the battlefield,” he added.

Fit for Duty: Abrams and AGT1500 Keep Getting Better

The M1 Abrams entered service with the Army in 1980, but don’t let its age fool you. The tank – and its powerful and reliable turbine engine – are still fit for duty in the 2020s and beyond.

The U.S. Army and foreign military operators such as Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Poland, and Taiwan expect to use the Abrams until at least 2050. Most recently, the U.S. committed to send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine and approved the sale of 366 tanks to Poland over a multi-year period, with several more orders on the horizon for the world’s foremost battle tank.

General Dynamics Land Systems has produced more than 10,000 M1s through its factory in Lima, Ohio. Though its basic design hasn’t changed much in four decades, this is not the same tank that dominated in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. It has gone through dozens of upgrades and the latest Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 is safer for crewmembers, more survivable and even more lethal than previous versions.

Like every Abrams tank ever built, the M1A2 SEPv3 relies on the Honeywell AGT1500 to take it anywhere it needs to go under the most grueling of conditions. “We’ve implemented many engine upgrades over the years to improve fuel efficiency, reliability and maintainability,” Paulus said. “But the transformational change for the AGT1500 was the TIGER program, which launched in 2005.”

 

TIGER Takes Maintenance to a New Level 

The Honeywell AGT1500 Total InteGrated Engine Revitalization (TIGER) program is a continuous improvement program that has enhanced engine quality, durability and readiness, all while reducing operation and support costs through an integrated lifecycle management approach.

The TIGER process uses field data to more accurately tailor maintenance needs and repairs, both in the field and at the depot. By enabling more maintenance to be performed in the field, tank commanders have additional flexibility to plan deployments and missions with increased confidence.

“The TIGER process allows us to improve engine sustainment and durability using a data-driven approach,” Paulus said. “We have more than doubled the mean time between depot return (MTBDR) through condition-based overhaul practices, focused field maintenance actions called TIGER Tasks, and incremental engine design improvements.”

Honeywell also made engine sustainment easier with the introduction of an engine memory unit (EMU), which acts like an aircraft flight data recorder. The EMU keeps track of engine operational history, including number of starts, time spent at various power and temperature levels, fault codes and many other engine parameters. Stored on the engine itself, this data provides vital information to maintenance specialists at the depot and in the field.

“The Abrams is an amazing machine with a long and proud history and a promising future,” Paulus said. “We’re extremely proud of the AGT1500 engine’s contribution to the Abrams’ capabilities and the success of the warfighter. Our Advanced Reliability and Cost Savings (ARCS) improvements will make the engine even more reliable and fuel-efficient, further improving the vehicle’s range, mission effectiveness and the tactical overmatch it provides to Abrams users around the world.”  

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