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CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Dozens of high-tech, refurbished M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks have started arriving at Camp Casey to replace the 2nd Infantry Division’s older tanks.

Tankers from the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armored Regiment, Company A braved sub-zero temperatures at a Camp Casey railhead to unload one of several consignments of tanks from carriages Thursday.

Officials said safety was a priority during the unloading process, which involved driving 15 tanks along a line of carriages slightly narrower than the width of the vehicles’ tracks, then maneuvering down a concrete ramp at the railhead.

Ramon Cruz, a civilian Defense Department employee from the Tank and Automotive Command in Fort Hood, Texas, is overseeing the vehicles’ arrival.

The new tanks have the same armor package, capabilities for maneuvering and weapons range as the vehicles they are replacing but have had a host of high-tech features added, he said.

Refurbishment involved stripping the vehicles down to their turrets and chassis, then sending them through the assembly line at General Dynamics’ Lima, Ohio, tank plant, Cruz said.

The tanks now have embedded diagnostic systems that can tell maintenance crews the causes of any problems that develop. The systems cut more than two hours from the time it took merely to set up the old diagnostic equipment, officials said.

The new tanks are also equipped with high-tech “Eyesafe” laser sites.

“The Eyesafe prevents a lot of accidents when it comes to firing the laser,” Cruz said. “The old lasers were dangerous to people’s eyes and could only be used at a designated laser firing range.”

The Eyesafe laser still is dangerous if fired directly into a soldier’s eye, but will not do damage when reflected off glass or metal, Cruz said.

The new tanks are powered by the same 1500-horsepower jet engines in the old models and in Iroquois (Huey) helicopters. But the engines, which use aviation fuel, are expected to last longer in the new tanks because digital systems slowly warm them up and cool them down to prevent damage during start-up and shut down.

“We’re having better engine run times and better performance, and we’re using less fuel than we did with the previous M1A1 models, which did three to five miles to the gallon,” Cruz said.

Staff Sgt. Edison Bayas, a Company A tank commander, said electronics incorporated in the tanks will make working with them much different from working with the old models.

“The driving techniques are the same but it’s easier for the tank commander, who has a computer display showing where his tank is and where the rest of the platoon is,” he said.

“These tanks give us more lethal power. With the tanks we have now, we can do some damage to the enemy, but these will give us greater power,” he said.

Maj. Bob Finnegan, 1st Brigade’s logistics officer, supervised the tanks’ arrival and said the vehicles will be “de-processed” at Camp Casey before being sent into the field.

“All the soldiers are really excited about getting new tanks,” he said. The refurbished machines will be issued in three segments, he said: The 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment in June and July; the 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment later in summer; and the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armored Regiment in the first quarter of fiscal 2005.

“The M1A1 is the best tank in the world,” he said. “It is very exciting getting updated and new models. It will improve the combat readiness and maintain the ‘fight tonight’ posture.”

The division’s old tanks, which arrived in 1995, will return to the United States, where they also may be refurbished or could be sent to a National Guard unit, Finnegan said.

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