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