The US Army is considering upgrading the Iraqi army’s M1A1 tanks with rotating, remotely operated machine guns to attack snipers as well as to detect roadside or suicide-bomb vehicles.
The tank upgrades built by General Dynamics could also include belly armor; lightweight reactive armor tiles; improved night-vision sensors from Waltham, and Raytheon Co. to provide 360-degree, all-weather views; and mine-clearing blades and rollers, according to the US Army survey released in November 2014.
The improvements are yet to gain approval by Congress, and up on funding by the Iraqi government, the upgrades could be ready within 18 months, a U.S. Army spokeswoman was quoted as saying by Stars and Stripes.
“There is currently no sole-source request for General Dynamics to provide these items or services, so unless Iraq submits a sole-source request, the effort will be open for competing bids, ”she said.
Islamic State extremists have captured Iraqi army tanks and anti-armor weapons not made in the U.S., and its fighters are using roadside bombs in northern Iraq to slow Iraqi attacks. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi last month asked outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for additional heavy weapons and air support to defeat Islamic State.
The Iraqi army has 140 tanks, with an additional six scheduled for delivery by Dec. 31, she said.
Armed with 120-mm cannons, the almost 70-ton M1 tank, depending on the model, can fire on the move at up to 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) in any weather.
The possible upgrades are in addition to a potential $2.4 billion sale of as many as 175 more M1A1 tanks, ammunition, machine guns and recovery vehicles to Iraq, which the administration notified Congress about on Dec. 19.
In addition, Congress has approved an Oct. 20 proposal that would let the Iraqi government buy as many as 36,000 rounds of tank ammunition from Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics.
The upgrades being considered are separate from $1.6 billion for Iraqi training and equipment that Congress approved last month as part of this year’s defense budget, the report added.