Armor: TUSK Shields The Loader


April 20,2008: The U.S. Army is buying 2,832 "loaders' armor gun shields," to provide protection around the loaders hatch on the top of the M-1 Abrams turret. The loader (who normally loads the 120mm gun), also has his own hatch, and a 7.62mm machine-gun on top of the turret. The other machine-gun, next to the commanders hatch, is 12.7mm (.50 caliber) and already has a gun shield. The loaders gun shield kits cost about $16,000 each.

The loaders gun shield is part of the TUSK (Tank Urban Survival Kit) [PHOTO]. The kit is a collection of additional features for M1 tanks, which make them more effective when fighting in urban areas. Many of the items in TUSK have been added to tanks over the last three years, as they became available.

The upgrades include the "loaders' armor gun shields," which is transparent ballistic glass, so the loader doesn't have his vision blocked. This is important for street fighting. The loaders machine-gun is also equipped with a thermal sight, making it more deadly at night. There is also a .50 caliber machine-gun being mounted on the main gun, so the 120mm fire control system can be used to fire the machine-gun, instead of 120mm shells.

Other components of TUSK are reactive armor panels for the side and rear of the tank, to provide added protection from RPGs. A slat armor panel protects the engine exhaust outlet of the tank from RPGs. A 1.5 ton belly armor kit, which can be installed in two hours, provides additional protection from mines and large bombs. Enhancements also include night vision for all crew members. There is also a telephone added to the side of the tank, so that infantry can more easily communicate with the crew when the tank is "buttoned up" (all hatches closed). The complete TUSK kit costs about $500,000 each and takes about twelve hours to install all the components.

Additional TUSK items are in the works, like a rear-view camera for the driver and CROWS, a system that allows the commanders .50 caliber machine-un to be operated remotely, while the tank commander is inside the turret. This is particularly useful if the tank is taking a lot of small arms fire.

TUSK was first proposed three years ago, and kits began arriving in Iraq a year ago.




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