Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army will purchase the latest iteration of the M1 Abrams tank in a $4.62 billion contract with General Dynamics, the Defense Department announced.
The battle tank, regarded by many as the world's best, first entered service in 1980.
The newest version, known as the M1A2C or the M1A2 SEPV3, includes a variety of improvements, notably a gunner's sight and commander's sight for increased lethality and a 120mm cannon.
It also has an ammunition datalink to fire improved rounds, 12 batteries for longer silent watch, reinforced armor, a jammer to counter radio-activated improvised explosive devices, replaceable modules for easier maintenance and other features.
The tank "provides the lethality, survivability and fightability necessary to defeat advanced threats well into the future," an Army statement said. "The Abrams tank is the Army's primary ground combat system."
At 71.2 tons, it is regarded as the most reliable Abrams tank ever produced, and the platform for future modernizations.
The Army intends to field over 2,100 M1AC tanks through its Abrams Upgrade Program and the eight-year, single-bid contract with General Dynamics Land Systems.
The Defense Department did not disclose the number of new tanks to be delivered in its announcement, but noted a completion date of 2028.
More than 10,000 Abrams tanks have been built since 1980, and are included in the equipment of the armies of Australia, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.