M1 Abrams
U.S. Army M1A2 Abrams in 2008, with production TUSK explosive reactive armor package installed
TypeMain battle tank
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1980–present
Used bySee Operators below
Wars
Production history
DesignerChrysler Defense (now General Dynamics Land Systems)
Designed1972–1975
ManufacturerLima Army Tank Plant (since 1980)[1]
Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant (1982–1996)
Egyptian Defense Company Tank Plant[2]
Unit costUS$6.21 million (M1A2 / FY99)[citation needed] Estimated in 2016 as US$8.92 million (with inflation adjustment)
Produced1979–present
No. builtapprox. 10,400[3]
VariantsSee variants
Specifications
MassM1: 60 short tons (54 t)[4]
M1A1: 63 short tons (57 t)[4]
M1A1 SA: 67.6 short tons (61.3 t)
M1A2 SEP v2: 71.2 short tons (64.6 t)
M1A2 SEP v3: 73.6 short tons (66.8 t)[5]
LengthGun forward: 32.04 ft (9.77 m)[6]
Hull length: 26.02 ft (7.93 m)
Width12 ft (3.66 m)[6]
Height8 ft (2.44 m)[6]
Crew4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

Elevation+20° / -10°[4]
Traverse9 seconds/360 degrees[4]

ArmorComposite armor
Main
armament
M1: 105 mm L/52 M68A1 rifled gun (55 rounds)
M1A1: 120 mm L/44 M256 smoothbore gun (40 rounds)
M1A2: 120 mm L/44 M256 smoothbore gun (42 rounds)
Secondary
armament
1 × 0.50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2HB heavy machine gun with 900 rounds
2 × 7.62 mm (.308 in) M240 machine guns with 10,400 rounds (1 pintle-mounted, 1 coaxial)
EngineHoneywell AGT1500 multi-fuel turbine engine
1,500 shp (1,120 kW)
Power/weightFrom 26.9 hp/t (20.05 kW/t) to 23.8 hp/t (17.74 kW/t)
TransmissionAllison DDA X-1100-3B
SuspensionHigh-hardness-steel torsion bars with rotary shock absorbers
Ground clearanceM1, M1A1: 0.48 m (1.6 ft; 19 in)
M1A2: 0.43 m (1 ft 5 in)
Fuel capacity504.4 US gallons (1,909 L)
Operational
range
M1A2, road: 265 mi (426 km)
Cross country: 93–124 mi (150–200 km)[7]
Maximum speed M1A1, road: 45 mph (72 km/h) (governed);
Off-road: 30 mph (48 km/h)[citation needed]
M1A2, road: 42 mph (67 km/h) (governed);
Off-road: 25 mph (40 km/h)[7]

The M1 Abrams (/ˈbrəmz/)[8] is a third-generation American main battle tank designed by Chrysler Defense (now General Dynamics Land Systems)[9] and named for General Creighton Abrams. Conceived for modern armored ground warfare and now one of the heaviest tanks in service at nearly 68 short tons (62 metric tons), it introduced several modern technologies to US armored forces, including a multifuel turbine engine, sophisticated Chobham composite armor, a computer fire control system, separate ammunition storage in a blowout compartment, and NBC protection for crew safety. Initial models of the M1 were armed with a 105 mm M68 gun, while later variants feature a license-produced Rheinmetall 120 mm L/44 designated M256.

The M1 Abrams was developed from the failed MBT-70 project that intended to replace the obsolete M60 tank. There are three main operational Abrams versions, the M1, M1A1, and M1A2, with each new iteration seeing improvements in armament, protection, and electronics.[10]

The Abrams was to be replaced in U.S. Army service by the XM1202 Mounted Combat System, but since that project was cancelled, the Army has opted to continue maintaining and operating the M1 series for the foreseeable future by upgrading with improved optics, armor, and firepower.

The M1 Abrams entered service in 1980 and serves as the main battle tank of the United States Army and formerly of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). The export version is used by the armies of Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Poland and Iraq. The Abrams was first used in combat in the Gulf War and has seen combat in both the War in Afghanistan and Iraq War under U.S. service, while Iraqi Abrams tanks have seen action in the war against the Islamic State and have seen use by Saudi Arabia during the Yemeni Civil War.

History

Main article: History of the M1 Abrams

Previous developments

Main article: MBT-70

Through the 1960s the US Army and Bundeswehr had collaborated on a single design that would replace both the M60 tank and the Leopard 1. The overall goal was to have a single new design with improved firepower to handle new Soviet tanks like the T-62, while providing improved protection against the T-62's new 115 mm smoothbore gun and especially high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds.[11][failed verification]

The resulting design, the MBT-70, incorporated new technologies across the board. A hydropneumatic suspension provided improved cross-country ride quality and also allowed the entire tank to be raised or lowered by the driver. New 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) engines powered the designs which could both reach 43 miles per hour (69 km/h). The American version used a 152 mm gun whose primary long-range weapon was the Shillelagh missile.[11]

While the design was highly capable, its weight continued to grow, as did its budget. By 1969, the unit cost stood at five times the original estimates, causing the Department of Defense to suspend the program.[12] Development of the tank continued on an austere basis until January 1970, when the DoD and Germany ended their partnership.[13]

The U.S. Army began work on an austere version of the MBT-70, named XM803. The Army's changes were insufficient to allay concerns about the tank's cost.[14] Congress canceled the XM803 in December 1971 but permitted the Army to reallocate remaining funds to develop a new main battle tank.[15]

Starting afresh

The Army began the XM815 project in January 1972. The Main Battle Tank Task Force was established under Major General William Desobry. The task force prepared design studies with the technical support of Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM).[16]

In spring 1962, Desobry was briefed by the British on their own newly developed "Burlington" armor from the British Army's labs. The armor performed exceptionally against shaped charges such as HEAT rounds. In September, Desobry convinced the Army to incorporate the new armor. In order to take full advantage of Burlington, also known as Chobham, the new tank would have to have armor around two feet thick (for comparison, the armor on the M60 is around four inches thick). General Creighton Abrams set the weight of the new tank at 58 short tons (53 t). The original goal of keeping weight under 50 short tons (45 t) was abandoned.[17]

The XM1 program was approved to begin in January 1973.[18] TACOM began examining specific goals. After several rounds of input, the decision was made to provide armor to defeat the "heavy threat" posed by the T-62's 115 mm gun using projected improvements of their armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) ammunition through the 1980s, and the new 125 mm gun of the T-64 and T-72 firing HEAT rounds.[19] To this end, a new design basis emerged in February 1973. It had to defeat any hit from a Soviet gun within 800 meters and 30 degrees to either side. The tank would be armed with the 105 mm M68 gun, a licensed version of the Royal Ordnance L7, and a 20 mm version of the M242 Bushmaster.[20] The Army later deleted the latter from the design, seeing it as superfluous.[21]

In May 1973, Chrysler Defense and General Motors submitted proposals. Both were armed with the 105 mm M68 gun, the licensed L7, and the 20 mm Bushmaster. Chrysler chose a 1,500 hp gas turbine Lycoming AGT1500. GM's model was powered by a 1,500 hp diesel similar to that used on the American MBT-70 and XM803.[22]

At the time, the Pentagon's procurement system was beset with problems being caused by the desire to have the best possible design. This often resulted in programs being canceled due to cost overruns, leaving the forces with outdated systems, as was the case with the MBT-70. There was a strong movement within the Army to get a new design within budget to prevent the MBT-70 experience from repeating itself. For the new design, the Army stated the unit cost was to be no more than $507,000 in 1972 dollars (equivalent to $3,550,000 in 2022).[23]

The Pentagon's approach to control of research and development was modified with the XM1. Previous acquisition strategy called for a significant amount of the design work be done by the government. Under the new framework, contractors would competitively bid their own designs rather than compete solely for the right to manufacture the end product.[24]

More changes

The Ballistic Research Laboratory (BRL) used computerized tools during the development of the M1, which led to the development of BRL-CAD. Here, a Vector General 3D graphics terminal displays a model of the M1.

Through the period while the initial prototypes were being built, a debate broke out between Germany and US about the use of the 105 mm gun. The Army was planning on introducing several new types of ammunition for the 105 that would greatly improve its performance, notably, the XM-774 using depleted uranium. These rounds would give it the performance needed to defeat any Soviet tank with ease. There was some concern that depleted uranium would not be allowed in Germany, perhaps just in peacetime, so improvements to the tungsten cored M735 were also considered.

Through this same period, there was an ongoing effort to improve NATO logistics by standardizing ammunition to the maximum possible degree. The Germans were moving ahead with their 120 mm gun on the Leopard 2K, and noted that the British had also introduced a 120 mm gun of their own in keeping with their long-range combat doctrine.

By 1977 the decision had been made to eventually move the new tank to a 120 mm gun. After head-to-head testing between the Royal Ordnance L11A5 and the Rh-120, the latter was chosen and later type-classified as the M256. The turret designs of the two prototypes were modified to allow either gun to be fitted. Although the L11/M256 120mm gun was chosen to be the main weapon of the Abrams in 1979, the improved ammunition for the gun still was not fully developed, thus delaying its fielding until 1984.[25]

The early production versions of the M1 Abrams (M1 & IPM1) were armed with the M68A1[26] for two reasons. First was due to the large number of M60 tanks with the M68E1 gun still in widespread US service in the 1980s and a large on-hand stockpile of 105mm munitions. Fitting the M1 with the M68A1 gun was viewed as an economical and practical solution that allowed for commonality in ammunition among the two types of tanks.[27] Secondly was that the M68A1 could employ the newly developed M900 APFSDS[citation needed] depleted uranium round that had improved penetration performance in comparison to the M774.[28]

Prototypes

XM1 prototypes
Chrysler
General Motors

Prototypes were delivered in 1976 by Chrysler and GM armed with the M68E1 105 mm gun. They entered head-to-head testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, along with a Leopard 2 AV prototype for comparison. The Leopard 2 was found to meet U.S. requirements but was thought to cost more.[29] The testing showed that the GM design was generally superior to Chrysler's, offering better armor protection, and better fire control and turret stabilization systems.[23] These early preproduction prototypes were provisionally armed with the M68E1 105mm main gun while a preferred 120 mm gun and its ammunition were in their design and component development phase. These prototypes used a combination mount that allowed for evaluating both 105 mm and 120 mm guns.[30]

During testing, the power packs of both designs proved to have issues. The Chrysler gas turbine engine had extensive heat recovery systems in an attempt to improve its fuel efficiency to something similar to a traditional internal combustion engine. This proved not to be the case: the engine consumed much more fuel than expected, burning 3.8 US gallons per mile (890 L/100 km). The GM design used a new variable-compression diesel design.[23]

By spring 1976, the decision to choose the GM design was largely complete. In addition to offering better overall performance, there were concerns about Chrysler's engine both from a reliability and fuel consumption standpoint. The GM program was also slightly cheaper overall at $208 million compared to $221 million for Chrysler. In July 1976, the Army prepared to inform Congress of the decision to move ahead with the GM design. All that was required was the final sign-off by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.[23]

Chrysler is chosen

The finalized M1 prototype

On 20 July 1976, United States Secretary of the Army Martin Hoffmann and a group of generals visited Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Clements and Director of Defense Research and Engineering Malcolm Currie on their decision. They were surprised when Clements and Currie criticized their decision and demanded the turbine be selected. Donald Rumsfeld heard arguments from both in the afternoon. The Army team spent the night writing briefs and presented them to Rumsfeld the next morning, who then announced a four-month delay.[23]

Within days, GM was asked to present a new design with a turbine engine. According to Assistant Secretary for Research and Development Ed Miller, "It became increasingly clear that the only solution which would be acceptable to Clements and Currie was the turbine... It was a political decision that was reached, and for all intents and purposes that decision gave the award to Chrysler since they were the only contractor with a gas turbine."[23]

On 12 November 1976, the Defense Department awarded a $20 billion development contract to Chrysler.[23]

The turbine engine does not appear to be the only reason for this decision. Chrysler was the only company that appeared to be seriously interested in tank development; the M60 had been lucrative for the company and relied on that program for much of its profit. In contrast, GM made only about 1% of its income from military sales, compared to 5% for Chrysler, and only submitted their bid after a "special plea" from the Pentagon.[23]

Production starts

M1 Abrams 105 mm main battle tanks maneuver into firing positions during Exercise REFORGER '85.
An early production XM-1 tank during field trials in 1979.

In January 1978, a program was initiated[31] to develop an enhanced version of the 105mm gun, the M68A1[32] as a possible alternate weapon for the M1 Abrams. The new XM24/L55 gun barrel was 18 inches (45.72 cm) longer in comparison to the XM24/L52 barrel used on the M60 tanks.[33] It has a higher chamber pressure,[26] reinforced breech[a] and a higher muzzle velocity.[34]

Low rate initial production (LRIP) of the vehicle was approved on 7 May 1979.[20] In February 1982, General Dynamics Land Systems Division (GDLS) purchased Chrysler Defense, after Chrysler built over 1,000 M1s.[35]

A total of 3,273 M1 Abrams tanks were produced during 1979–1985 and first entered U.S. Army service in 1980. Production at the government-owned, GDLS-operated Lima Army Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio, was joined by vehicles built at the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Warren, Michigan from 1982 to 1996.[citation needed] The U.S. Army Laboratory Command (LABCOM), under the supervision of the United States Army Research Laboratory (ARL), was also heavily involved with designing the tank with M1A1 armor resistant shells, M829A2 armor-penetrating rounds, and improved weapon range.[36]

The M1 was armed with the license-built M68A1 version of the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun. The tank featured the first of its kind Chobham armor. The M1 Abrams was the first to use this advanced armor. It consisted of an arrangement of metal plates, ceramic blocks and open space.[37] An improved model called the M1IP was produced briefly in 1984 and contained upgrades to armour and other small improvements. The M1IP models were used in the Canadian Army Trophy NATO tank gunnery competition in 1985 and 1987.

About 5,000 M1A1 Abrams tanks were produced from 1986 to 1992 and featured the M256 120 mm (4.7 in) smoothbore cannon developed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany for the Leopard 2, improved armor, consisting of depleted uranium and other classified materials, and a CBRN protection system. Production of M1 and M1A1 tanks totaled some 9,000 tanks at a cost of approximately $4.3 million per unit.[citation needed]

In 1990, Project On Government Oversight in a report criticized the M1's high costs and low fuel efficiency in comparison with other tanks of similar power and effectiveness such as the Leopard 2.[38]

As the Abrams entered service, they operated alongside M60A3 within the U.S. military, and with other NATO tanks in various Cold War exercises which usually took place in Western Europe, especially West Germany. The exercises were aimed at countering Soviet forces.[citation needed]

Adaptations before the Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm) gave the vehicle better firepower and NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) protection.[citation needed]

Gulf War

Abrams tanks move out on a mission during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. A Bradley IFV and a logistics convoy can be seen in the background.

The Abrams remained untested in combat until the Gulf War in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm. A total of 1,848 M1A1s were deployed to Saudi Arabia to participate in the liberation of Kuwait. The M1A1 was superior to Iraq's Soviet-era T-54/T-55 and T-62 tanks, as well as T-72 versions imported from the Soviet Union and Poland.[39] Polish officials stated that no license-produced T-72 (nicknamed Lion of Babylon) tanks were finished before destruction of the Iraqi Taji tank plant in 1991.[39]

The T-72s, like most Soviet export designs, lacked night-vision systems and then-modern rangefinders, though they did have some night-fighting tanks with older active infrared systems or floodlights. Very few M1 tanks were hit by enemy fire and none were destroyed as a direct result of enemy fire, none of which resulted in any fatalities.[40] Three Abrams were left behind the enemy lines after a swift attack on Talil airfield, south of Nasiriyah, on February 27. One of them was hit by enemy fire, the two other embedded in mud. The tanks were destroyed by U.S. forces in order to prevent any trophy-claim by the Iraqi Army.[41] A total of 23 M1A1s were damaged or destroyed during the war. Of the nine Abrams tanks destroyed, seven were destroyed by friendly fire and two intentionally destroyed to prevent capture by the Iraqi Army. No M1s were lost to enemy tank fire.[42] Some others took minor combat damage, with little effect on their operational readiness.[43]

The M1A1 could kill other tanks at ranges in excess of 8,200 feet (2,500 m). This range was crucial in combat against previous generation tanks of Soviet design in Desert Storm, as the effective range of the main gun in the Soviet/Iraqi tanks was less than 6,600 feet (2,000 m). This meant Abrams tanks could hit Iraqi tanks before the enemy got in range—a decisive advantage in this kind of combat. In friendly fire incidents, the front armor and fore side turret armor survived direct APFSDS hits from other M1A1s. This was not the case for the side armor of the hull and the rear armor of the turret, as both areas were penetrated on at least two occasions by unintentional strikes by depleted uranium ammunition during the Battle of Norfolk.[44]

A destroyed M1A1, hit in the rear grill by a Hellfire missile and penetrated by a sabot tank round from the left side to right (see exit hole)

During operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm some M1IP and M1A1s were modified locally in theater (in the war zone) by modification work orders (MWO) with additional rolled homogeneous armor plating welded on the turret front.[citation needed]

Lessons from the war improved the tank's weapons sights and fire control unit.

Waco siege

M1A1 tank beside the burning compound of the Waco Siege.

During the Waco siege in 1993 two M1A1 Abrams tanks were borrowed from the military[45] and deployed by the FBI against the Branch Davidians.[46]

Upgrades

The M1A2 was a further improvement of the M1A1, with a commander's independent thermal viewer, weapon station, position navigation equipment, and a full set of controls and displays linked by a digital data bus. These upgrades also provided the M1A2 with an improved fire control system.[47] The M1A2 System Enhancement Package (SEP) added digital maps, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) Linux communications system capabilities for commanders, and an improved cooling system to compensate for heat generated by the additional computer systems.[48]

The M1A2 SEP also serves as the basis for the M104 Wolverine heavy assault bridge. The M1A2 SEPv2 (version 2) added Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS or CROWS II) support, color displays, better interfaces, a new operating system, better front and side armor, and an upgraded transmission for better durability.[48]

Further upgrades included depleted uranium armor for all variants, a system overhaul that returns all A1s to like-new condition (M1A1 AIM), a digital enhancement package for the A1 (M1A1D), and a commonality program to standardize parts between the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps (M1A1HC). Improvements to survivability, lethality, and protection have been sought since 2014.[49]

Iraq War

An Abrams crossing the Euphrates River at Objective Peach on ribbon assault float bridge deployed by the 299th Engineer Company in 2003

Further combat was seen during 2003 when U.S. forces invaded Iraq and deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War's Operation Iraqi Freedom. One achievement of the M1A1s was the destruction of seven T-72s in a point-blank skirmish (less than 50 yards (46 m)) near Mahmoudiyah, about 18 miles (29 km) south of Baghdad, with no U.S. losses.[50] This was in the face of inadequately trained Iraqi tank crews, most of whom had not fired live ammunition in the previous year due to the sanctions then in operation and made no hits at point-blank range.[51]

A M1A1 conducts reconnaissance in Iraq, September 2004.

Following lessons learned in Desert Storm, the Abrams and many other U.S. combat vehicles used in the conflict were fitted with Combat Identification Panels to reduce friendly fire incidents.[citation needed]

Several Abrams tanks that were irrecoverable due to loss of mobility or other circumstances were destroyed by friendly forces, usually by other Abrams tanks, to prevent their capture.[52] Some Abrams tanks were disabled by Iraqi infantrymen in ambushes during the invasion. Some troops employed short-range anti-tank rockets and fired at the tracks, rear and top. Other tanks were put out of action by engine fires when flammable fuel stored externally in turret racks was hit by small arms fire and spilled into the engine compartment.[53][54] By March 2005, approximately 80 Abrams tanks were forced out of action by enemy attacks;[55] 63 were shipped back to the U.S. for repairs, while 17 were damaged beyond repair[56] with 3 of them at the beginning of 2003.[57]

A M1A2 Abrams with prototype Tank Urban Survival Kit armor upgrade equipment and Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS),[58] with a .50 caliber machine gun at the commander's station

Vulnerabilities exposed during urban combat in the Iraq War were addressed with the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) modifications, including armor upgrades and a gun shield, issued to some M1 Abrams tanks. It added protection in the rear and side of the tank and improved fighting ability and survival ability in urban environments.[59] By December 2006 more than 530 Abrams tanks had been shipped back to the U.S. for repairs.[60]

Main article: RPG-29 § 2003 Iraq War

In May 2008, it was reported that a U.S. M1 tank had also been damaged in Iraq by insurgent fire of a Soviet-made RPG-29 "Vampir", which uses a tandem-charge HEAT warhead to penetrate explosive reactive armor (ERA) as well as composite armor behind it.[61] The U.S. considered the RPG-29 a high threat to armor and refused to allow the newly formed Iraqi Army to buy it, fearing that it would fall into the insurgents' hands.[62]

Iraqi Army service

Between 2010 and 2012 the U.S. supplied 140 refurbished M1A1 Abrams tanks to Iraq. In mid-2014, they saw action when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant launched the June 2014 Northern Iraq offensive. During three months, about one-third of the Iraqi Army's M1 tanks had been damaged or destroyed by ISIL and some were captured by opposing forces. By December 2014, the Iraqi Army only had about 40 operational Abrams left. That month, the U.S. Department of State approved the sale of another 175 Abrams to Iraq.[63][64][65]

Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite Kata'ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) were reported to operate M1 Abrams, and released publicity showing the tanks being transported by trucks to take part in the Battle of Mosul. It is not known whether the tanks were captured from ISIS, seized from Iraq's military, or handed over.[66]

One Iraqi-operated Abrams has been nicknamed "The Beast" after it became the lone working tank when taking back the town of Hit in April 2016, destroying enemy fighting positions and IED emplacements.[67]

In October 2017, Abrams were used by the Iraqi security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (also called Al-Hashd al-Shaabi) in assaults against the Kurdistan Regional Government Peshmerga in the town of Altun Kupri (also called Prde). It was claimed by Kurdish commanders that at least one Abrams was destroyed by the Peshmerga.[68]

War in Afghanistan

Tanks may have limited utility in Afghanistan due to the mountainous terrain, although Canada and Denmark deployed Leopard 1 and 2 MBTs that were specially modified to operate in the relatively flat and arid conditions of southwestern Afghanistan. In late 2010, at the request of Regional Command Southwest, the U.S. Marine Corps deployed a small detachment of 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks from Delta Company, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward),[69] to southern Afghanistan in support of operations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.[70]

2015 Yemen Civil War

After the start of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen during the 2015 Yemeni Civil War, Saudi Arabian M1A2 MBTs were deployed near the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border.[citation needed] In August 2016, the U.S. approved a deal to sell up to 153 more Abrams tanks to Saudi Arabia, including 20 "battle damage replacements", suggesting that some Saudi Arabian Abrams had been destroyed or severely damaged in combat in Yemen.[71][72][73]

Russo-Ukrainian War

Russian invasion of Ukraine

On 24 January 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden said that the United States would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine,[74] stating that this was intended to "enhance the Ukraine's capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives" and was "not an offensive threat to Russia."[75] The plan to transfer the tanks to Ukraine was approved as part of a larger support package.[76] Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh specified that the tanks would be the M1A2 variant; however, because they were not available in excess in U.S. stocks, they would be purchased through Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and could take up to two years to manufacture and deliver. She also acknowledged the challenges of training Ukrainian tank crews and maintaining the tanks in Ukraine.[77] In March 2023 the Pentagon announced that, in order to expedite delivery, older M1A1 variants would be pulled from Army stocks and refurbished for delivery by the fall. This change would also ensure deliveries to US allies of new M1A2s would not be disrupted.[78]

Production shutdown

This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (January 2017)

The U.S. Army planned to end production at the Lima Army Tank Plant from 2013 to 2016 in an effort to save over $1 billion; it would be restarted in 2017 to upgrade existing tanks. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which operates the factory, opposed the move, arguing that suspension of operations would increase long-term costs and reduce flexibility.[79][80] Specifically, GDLS estimated that closing the plant would cost $380 million and restarting production would cost $1.3 billion.[81]

By August 2013, Congress had allocated $181 million for buying parts and upgrading Abrams systems to mitigate industrial base risks and sustain development and production capability. Congress and General Dynamics were criticized for redirecting money to keep production lines open and accused of "forcing the Army to buy tanks it didn't need." General Dynamics asserted that a four-year shutdown would cost $1.1–1.6 billion to reopen the line, depending on the length of the shutdown, whether machinery would be kept operating, and whether the plant's components would be completely removed.[82]

They contended that the move was to upgrade Army National Guard units to expand a "pure fleet" and maintain production of identified "irreplaceable" subcomponents. A prolonged shutdown could cause their makers to lose their ability to produce them and foreign tank sales were not guaranteed to keep production lines open. There is still risk of production gaps even with production extended through 2015. With funds awarded before recapitalization is needed, budgetary pressures may push planned new upgrades for the Abrams from 2017 to 2019.[82]

In December 2014, Congress again allocated $120 million, against the wishes of the Army, for Abrams upgrades including improving gas mileage by integrating an auxiliary power unit (APU) to decrease idle time fuel consumption and upgrading the tank's sights and sensors.[83]

In late 2016, tank production and refurbishment had fallen to a rate of one per month with fewer than 100 workers on site. In 2017, the Trump administration ordered military production to increase, including Abrams production and employment. In 2018, it was reported that the Army had ordered 135 tanks re-built to new standards, with employment at over 500 workers and expected to rise to 1,000.[84]

Future plans

This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (November 2022)

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Block III main battle tank from the Armored Systems Modernization (ASM) program was expected to succeed the M1 Abrams family in the 1990s. The design had an unmanned turret with a 140 mm main gun, as well as improved protection. The end of Cold War hostilities caused the end of the program. The tracked M8 Armored Gun System was conceived as a possible supplement for the Abrams in U.S. service for low-intensity conflict in the early 1990s. Prototypes were made but the program was canceled. The eight-wheeled M1128 Mobile Gun System was designed to supplement the Abrams in U.S. service for low-intensity conflicts.[85] It has been introduced into service and serves with Stryker brigades.

The Future Combat Systems XM1202 Mounted Combat System was to replace the Abrams in U.S. Army service and was in development when funding for the program was cut from the DoD's budget in 2010[clarification needed].[86]

Engineering Change Proposal 1 is a two-part upgrade process. ECP1A adds space, weight, and power improvements and active protection against improvised explosive devices. Nine ECP1A prototypes have been produced as of October 2014. ECP1B, which will begin development in 2015, may include sensor upgrades and the convergence of several tank round capabilities into a multi-purpose round.[87]

In 2011 the Army anticipated that the remaining M1A1 fleet will remain in U.S. service until at least 2021, and the M1A2 to beyond 2050.[88] The United States Army National Guard will continue using M1A1s for a lengthier, undetermined period.[citation needed]

The Marine Corps pursued a force restructuring plan named Force Design 2030. Under this program, all US Marine tank battalions were deactivated and its M1A1 tanks transferred to the Army by the end of 2021.[89][90]

The U.S. Army is evaluating a replacement for the M1 Abrams as part of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program, notionally known as the Decisive Lethality Platform (DLP).[91]

Design

Countermeasures

Camouflage

Further information: Military camouflage

U.S. M1A1s during the Foal Eagle 1998 training exercises in South Korea, with their factory single green paint scheme
M1A1 in the Australian Army's Disruptive Pattern Camouflage, used for vehicles and materiel

Earlier U.S. military vehicles, used from World War I through the Vietnam War, used a scheme of "olive drab", often with large white stars. Prototypes, early production M1 (105 mm gun) and M1-IP models switched to a flat forest green paint scheme. The large white insignia stars have also transitioned to much smaller black markings. Some units painted their M1s with the older Mobility Equipment Research and Design Command (MERDC) 4-color paint scheme but the turn-in requirements for these tanks required repainting them to overall forest green. Therefore, even though a large number of the base model M1s were camouflaged in the field, few or none exist today.

M1A1s came from the factory with the NATO three color camouflage Black/Med-Green/Dark-Brown Chemical Agent Resistant Coating (CARC) paint jobs.[citation needed] Today, M1A1s are given the NATO three color paint job during rebuilds. M1s and M1A1s deployed to Operation Desert Storm were hastily painted desert tan. Some, but not all, of these tanks were re-painted to their "authorized" paint scheme. M1A2s built for Middle Eastern countries were painted in desert tan. Replacement parts (roadwheels, armor skirt panels, drive sprockets, etc.) are painted olive green, which can sometimes lead to vehicles with a patchwork of green and desert tan parts.

Australian M1A1s were desert tan when delivered but have undergone a transition to the Australian Army vehicle standard 'Disruptive Pattern Camouflage'; a scheme that consists of black, olive drab, and brown.[92][self-published source?][93]

The U.S. Army can equip its Abrams tanks with the Saab Barracuda camouflage system, which provides concealment against visual, infrared, thermal infrared, and broad-band radar detection.[citation needed]

Concealment

The turret is fitted with two six-barreled M250 smoke grenade launchers (USMC M1A1s used an eight-barreled version), with one on each side. When deployed, the grenades airburst, creating a thick smoke that blocks both visual and thermal imaging. The engine is also equipped with a smoke generator that is triggered by the driver. When activated, fuel is sprayed into the hot turbine exhaust, creating the thick smoke. Due to a risk of fires however, this system is sometimes disabled.

Armor

Tankers drive an M1A1 Abrams through the Taunus Mountains north of Frankfurt during Exercise Ready Crucible in February 2005.
U.S. Marines with the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, advance on their eastern objective defended by opposing Spanish forces during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Dalholen, Norway, November 3, 2018.

In July 1973, representatives from Chrysler and General Motors traveled to the United Kingdom, and were escorted by personnel from the Ballistic Research Laboratory and XM1 Project Manager Major General Robert J. Baer to witness the progress of British developed Chobham armor.[94] They observed the manufacturing processes required for the production of Chobham armor, which was an arrangement of metal plates, ceramic blocks and open space;[37] and saw a proposed design for a new British vehicle utilizing it.

HEAT and sabot rounds enter the beginning layers of armor but are unable to penetrate the crew compartment. Ceramics have the ability to absorb a great deal of heat, and can blunt physical blows by cracking and deflecting the force. The remaining hot gasses and metal shrapnel spread out or settle in empty air pockets. Both contractors reevaluated their proposed armor configurations based upon the newly obtained data.[21]

This led to major changes in the General Motors XM1, the most prominent of which is the turret front changing from vertical to sloped armor. The Chrysler XM1 on the other hand retained its basic shape although a number of changes were made. The Ballistic Research Laboratory had to develop new armor combinations in order to accommodate the changes made by the contractors.[21]

Similar to most other main battle tanks, the M1 Abrams feature composite armor only on the frontal aspect of the hull. However, the Abrams' turret features composite armoring across both the front and the sides. In addition, the side skirts of the frontal half of the hull are also made of composite, providing superior ballistic protection against chemical energy munitions such as HEAT rounds. The composition of the Abrams' composite armor consists of sandwiched plates of non-explosive reactive armor (NERA) between conventional steel plates. The NERA plates feature elasticity, allowing them to flex and distort upon perforation, disrupting the penetrating jets of shaped charges and providing more material and space for a kinetic round to pass through, thus providing increased protection compared to conventional steel armor of similar weight.[citation needed] For the M1 Abrams base model, Steven Zaloga estimates the frontal armor at 350 mm vs APFSDS and 700 mm vs HEAT warhead in the book, M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank 1982–1992 (1993).[95] In M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural (2009), he uses Soviet estimates of 470 mm vs APFSDS and 650 mm vs HEAT for the base model Abrams. He also gives the Soviet estimates for the M1A1, 600 mm vs APFSDS, and 700 mm vs HEAT.[42]

Armor protection was improved by implementing a new special armor incorporating depleted uranium and other undisclosed materials and layouts.[37] This was introduced into the M1A1 production starting October 1988. This new armor increased effective armor particularly against kinetic energy rounds[96] but at the expense of adding considerable weight to the tank, as depleted uranium is 1.7 times denser than lead.[97]

The first M1A1 tanks to receive this upgrade were tanks stationed in Germany. US-based tank battalions participating in Operation Desert Storm received an emergency program to upgrade their tanks with depleted uranium armor immediately before the onset of the campaign. M1A2 tanks uniformly incorporate depleted uranium armor, and all M1A1 tanks in active service have been upgraded to this standard as well.[98] This variant was designated as the M1A1HA (HA for Heavy Armor).[99]

The M1A1 AIM, M1A2 SEP and all subsequent Abrams models feature depleted uranium in both the hull and turret armor.[100] Each Abrams variant after the M1A1 have been equipped with depleted uranium armor of different generations. The M1A1HA uses first generation armor, while the M1A2 and M1A1HC use second generation depleted uranium. The M1A2 SEP variants have been equipped with third generation depleted uranium armor combined with a graphite coating. The M1A2C also features increased physical line-of-sight turret armor.[101]

For the M1A1HA, Zaloga gives a frontal armor estimate of 600 mm vs APFSDS and 1300 mm vs HEAT in M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank 1982–1992, nearly double the original protection of the Abrams.[99] In M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural, he uses different estimates of 600 mm vs APFSDS and 700 mm vs HEAT for the front hull and 800 mm vs APFSDS and 1300 mm vs HEAT for the front of the turret.[42] The protection of M1A2 SEP is a frontal turret armor estimate of 940–960 mm vs APFSDS and 1,320–1,620 vs HEAT, glacis estimate of 560–590 mm vs APFSDS and 510–1,050 vs HEAT, and lower front hull estimate of 580–650 mm vs APFSDS and 800–970 vs HEAT. The M1A2 SEPV3 increased the LOS thickness of the turret and hull front armor; total armor protection from this increase is not known.[102]

In 1998, a program was begun to incorporate improved turret side armor into the M1A2. This was intended to offer better protection against rocket-propelled grenades that were more modern than the baseline RPG-7. These kits were installed on about 325 older M1A2 tanks in 2001–2009 and were also included in upgraded tanks.[103]

The Abrams may also be fitted with explosive reactive armor over the track skirts if needed (such as the Tank Urban Survival Kit)[104] and slat armor over the rear of the tank and rear fuel cells to protect against ATGMs. Protection against spalling is provided by a kevlar liner.

Damage control

The tank has a halon firefighting system to automatically extinguish fires in the crew compartment. The engine compartment has a firefighting system that is engaged by pulling a T-handle located on the left side of the hull. The Halon gas can be dangerous to the crew.[105] However, the toxicity of Halon 1301 gas at 7% concentration is much lower than the combustion products produced by fire in the crew compartment, and CO2 dump would be lethal to the crew.[106]

The crew compartment also contains small hand-held fire extinguishers. Fuel and ammunition are stored in armored compartments with blowout panels intended to protect the crew from the risk of the tank's own ammunition cooking off (exploding) if the tank is damaged. The main gun's ammunition is stored in the rear section of the turret, with blast doors that open under power by sliding sideways only to remove a round for firing, then automatically close. Doctrine mandates that the ammunition door must be closed before arming the main gun.[106]

Tank Urban Survival Kit

A M1A2 with TUSK
A M1A1 Abrams with an Abrams Integrated Management System (AIM) and the Tank Urban Survivability Kit (TUSK) conducting a patrol in Baghdad, 2007

The Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) is a series of improvements to the M1 Abrams intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments.[107][104] Historically, urban and other close battlefields have been poor places for tanks to fight. A tank's front armor is much stronger than that on the sides, top, or rear. In an urban environment, attacks can come from any direction, and attackers can get close enough to reliably hit weak points in the tank's armor or gain sufficient elevation to hit the top armor.

Armor upgrades include reactive armor on the sides of the tank and slat armor (similar to that on the Stryker) on the rear to protect against rocket-propelled grenades and other shaped charge warheads. A Transparent Armor Gun Shield and a thermal sight system are added to the loader's top-mounted M240B 7.62 mm machine gun, and a Kongsberg Gruppen Remote Weapon Turret carrying a 12.7 mm (.50 in) caliber machine gun (again similar to that used on the Stryker) is in place of the tank commander's original 12.7 mm (.50 in) caliber machine gun mount, wherein the commander had to expose himself to fire the weapon manually. An exterior telephone allows supporting infantry to communicate with the tank commander.

The TUSK system is a field-installable kit that allows tanks to be upgraded without needing to be recalled to a maintenance depot. While the reactive armor may not be needed in most situations, like those present in maneuver warfare, items like the rear slat armor, loader's gun shield, infantry phone (which saw use on Marine Corps M1A1s as early as 2003), and Kongsberg Remote Weapons Station for the 12.7 mm (.50 in) caliber machine gun will eventually be added to the entire M1A2 fleet.

In August 2006, General Dynamics Land Systems received a U.S. Army order for 505 Tank Urban Survivability Kits (TUSK) for Abrams main battle tanks supporting operations in Iraq, under a US$45 million contract. Deliveries were expected to be completed by April 2009.[108] Under a separate order, the U.S. Army awarded General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GDATP) US$30 million to produce reactive armor kits to equip M1A2s. The reactive tiles for the M1 will be locally produced at GDATP's Burlington Technology Center.[108]

Tiles will be produced at the company's reactive armor facility in Stone County Operations, McHenry, Mississippi. In December 2006, the U.S. Army added Counter Improvised Explosive Device enhancements to the M1A1 and M1A2 TUSK, awarding GDLS $11.3 million contract, part of the $59 million package mentioned above. In December, GDLS also received an order, amounting to around 40% of a US$48 million order, for loader's thermal weapon sights being part of the TUSK system improvements for the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams Tanks.[108]

Active protection system

The Trophy Active Protection System (APS) was installed and tested on a USMC M1A1 Abrams in 2017.

In addition to the armor, some USMC Abrams tanks[needs update] were equipped with a Softkill Active protection system, the AN/VLQ-6 Missile Countermeasure Device (MCD) that can impede the function of guidance systems of some semi-active control line-of-sight (SACLOS) wire- and radio guided anti-tank missiles (such as the Russian 9K114 Shturm) and infrared homing missiles.[109] The MCD works by emitting a massive, condensed infrared signal to confuse the infrared homing seeker of an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).

However, the drawback to the system is that the ATGM is not destroyed, it is merely directed away from its intended target, leaving the missile to detonate elsewhere. This device is mounted on the turret roof in front of the loader's hatch, and can lead some people to mistake Abrams tanks fitted with these devices for the M1A2 version, since the Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer on the latter is mounted in the same place, though the MCD is box-shaped and fixed in place as opposed to cylindrical and rotating like the CITV.

In 2016, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps began testing out the Israeli Trophy active protection system to protect their Abrams tanks from modern RPG and ATGM threats by either jamming (with ATGMs) or firing small rounds to deflect incoming projectiles.[110] The Army planned to field a brigade of over 80 tanks equipped with Trophy to Europe in 2020.[111] It is planned for up to 261 Abrams to be upgraded with the system, enough for four brigades.[112] In June 2018, the Army awarded Leonardo DRS, U.S. partner to Trophy's designer Rafael, a $193 million contract to deliver the system in support of M1 Abrams "immediate operational requirements".[113] U.S. Army M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams tanks deployed to Germany in July 2020 fitted with Trophy systems.[citation needed] Deliveries to equip four tank brigades were completed in January 2021.[114]

Armament

Primary

M68A1 rifled gun

The main armament of the original model M1 and M1IP was the M68A1 105 mm rifled tank gun firing a variety of APFSDS, HEAT, high explosive, white phosphorus rounds and an anti-personnel (multiple flechette) round. This gun used a license-made tube of the British Royal Ordnance L7 gun together with the vertical sliding breech block and other parts of the U.S. T254E2 prototype gun. However, it proved to be inadequate; a cannon with lethality beyond the 1.9-mile (3 km) range was needed to combat newer armor technologies. To attain that lethality, the projectile diameter needed to be increased. The tank was able to carry 55 105 mm rounds, with 44 stored in the turret blow-out compartment and the rest in hull stowage.

M256 smoothbore gun
M1 Abrams during a U.S. Army firing exercise, displaying internal crew cabin operations
An M1A1 fires its main gun in 2019.

The main armament of the M1A1 and M1A2 is the M256 120 mm smoothbore gun, designed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany, manufactured under license in the U.S. by Watervliet Arsenal, New York. The M256 is an improved variant of the Rheinmetall 120 mm L/44 gun carried on the German Leopard 2 on all variants up to the Leopard 2A5, the difference being in thickness and chamber pressure. Leopard 2A6 replaced the L/44 barrel with a longer L/55. Due to the increased caliber, only 40 or 42 rounds are able to be stored depending on if the tank is an A1 or A2 model.

The M256 fires a variety of rounds. The primary APFSDS round of the Abrams is the depleted uranium M829 round, of which four variants have been designed. M829A1, known as the "Silver Bullet", saw widespread service in the Gulf War, where it proved itself against Iraqi armor such as the T-72. The M829A2 APFSDS round was developed specifically as an immediate solution to address the improved protection of a Russian T-72, T-80U or T-90 main battle tank equipped with Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor (ERA).[115]

Later, the M829A3 round was introduced to improve its effectiveness against next generation ERA equipped tanks, through usage of a multi-material penetrator and increased penetrator diameter that can resist the shear effect of K-5 type ERA.[citation needed] Development of the M829 series is continuing with the M829A4 currently entering production, featuring advanced technology such as data-link capability.[116]

The Abrams also fires HEAT warhead shaped charge rounds such as the M830, the latest version of which (M830A1) incorporates a sophisticated multi-mode electronic sensing fuse and more fragmentation that allows it to be used effectively against armored vehicles, personnel, and low-flying aircraft. The Abrams uses a manual loader, who also provides additional support for maintenance, observation post/listening post (OP/LP) operations, and other tasks.

The new M1028 120 mm anti-personnel canister cartridge was brought into service early for use in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contains 1,098 38-inch (9.5 mm) tungsten balls that spread from the muzzle to produce a shotgun effect lethal out to 600 meters (2,000 ft). The tungsten balls can be used to clear enemy dismounts, break up hasty ambush sites in urban areas, clear defiles, stop infantry attacks and counter-attacks and support friendly infantry assaults by providing covering fire. The canister round is also a highly effective breaching round and can level cinder block walls and knock man-sized holes in reinforced concrete walls for infantry raids at distances up to 75 meters (246 ft).[117]

Also in use is the M908 obstacle-reduction round. It is designed to destroy obstacles and barriers. The round is a modified M830A1 with the front fuse replaced by a steel nose to penetrate into the obstacle before detonation.[118]

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) conducted a thermal analysis of the M256 from 2002 to 2003 to evaluate the potential of using a hybrid barrel system that would allow for multiple weapon systems such as the XM1111 Mid-Range munition, airburst rounds, or XM1147. The test concluded that mesh density (number of elements per unit area) impacts accuracy of the M256 and specific densities would be needed for each weapon system.[119]

In 2013 the Army was developing a new round to replace the M830/M830A1, M1028, and M908. Called the Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP) round, it will have point detonation, delay, and airburst modes through an ammunition data-link and a multi-mode, programmable fuse in a single munition. Having one round that does the job of four would simplify logistics and be able to be used on a variety of targets. The AMP is to be effective against bunkers, infantry, light armor, and obstacles out to 500 meters, and will be able to breach reinforced concrete walls and defeat ATGM teams from 500 to 2,000 meters.[120][121] Orbital ATK was awarded a contract to begin the first phase of development for the AMP XM1147 High-Explosive Multi-Purpose with Tracer cartridge in October 2015.[122]

In addition to these, the XM1111 (Mid-Range-Munition Chemical Energy) was also in development. The XM1111 was a guided munition using a dual-mode seeker that combined imaging-infrared and semi-active laser guidance. The MRM-CE was selected over the competing MRM-KE, which used a rocket-assisted kinetic energy penetrator. The CE variant was chosen due to its better effects against secondary targets, providing a more versatile weapon. The Army hoped to achieve IOC with the XM1111 by 2013.[123] However, the Mid-Range Munition was cancelled in 2009 along with Future Combat Systems.[124]

Secondary

A M1A1 firing its main gun as seen from the loader's hatch. The M240 is visible left while the M2 is visible right.

The Abrams tank has three machine guns, with an optional fourth:

  1. A .50 cal. (12.7 mm) M2HB machine gun in front of the commander's hatch. On the M1 and M1A1, this gun is mounted on the Commander's Weapons Station. This allows the weapon to be aimed and fired from within the tank. Normal combat loadout for the M1A1 is a single 100-round box of ammo at the weapon, and another 900 rounds carried. The later M1A2 variant had a "flex" mount that required the tank commander to expose his or her upper torso in order to fire the weapon. In urban environments in Iraq this was found to be unsafe. With the Common Remote Operated Weapons System (CROWS) add-on kit, an M2A1 .50 Caliber Machine gun, M240, or M249 SAW can be mounted on a CROWS remote weapons platform (similar to the Protector M151 remote weapon station used on the Stryker family of vehicles). Current variants of the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK) on the M1A2 have forgone this, instead adding transparent gun shields to the commander's weapon station. The upgrade variant called the M1A1 Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) equips the .50 caliber gun with a thermal sight for accurate night and other low-visibility shooting.[125]
  2. A 7.62 mm M240 machine gun in front of the loader's hatch on a skate mount (seen at right). Some of these were fitted with gun shields during the Iraq War, as well as night-vision scopes for low-visibility engagements and firing. This gun can be moved to the TC's position if the M2 .50 cal is damaged.
  3. A second 7.62 mm M240 machine gun in a coaxial mount (i.e., it points at the same targets as the main gun) to the right of the main gun. The coaxial MG is aimed and fired with the same computerized firing control system used for the main gun. On earlier M1 and M1A1s 3000 rounds are carried, all linked together and ready to fire. This was reduced slightly in later models to make room for new system electronics. A typical 7.62mm combat loadout is between 10,000 and 14,000 rounds carried on each tank.
  4. (Optional) A second coaxial .50 cal. (12.7 mm) M2HB machine gun can be mounted directly above the main gun in a remote weapons platform as part of the CSAMM (Counter Sniper Anti Material Mount) package.

Aiming

A view of the gunner's station (bottom left) and commander's station (top right)

The Abrams is equipped with a ballistic fire-control computer that uses user and system-supplied data from a variety of sources to compute, display, and incorporate the three components of a ballistic solution—lead angle, ammunition type, and range to the target—to accurately fire the main gun. These three components are determined using a laser rangefinder, crosswind sensor, a pendulum static cant sensor, data concerning performance and flight characteristics of each specific type of round, tank-specific boresight alignment data, ammunition temperature, air temperature, barometric pressure, a muzzle reference system (MRS) that determines and compensates for barrel drop at the muzzle due to gravitational pull and barrel heating due to firing or sunlight, and target speed determined by tracking rate tachometers in the Gunner's or Commander's Controls Handles.

All of these factors are computed into a ballistic solution and updated 30 times per second. The updated solution is displayed in the Gunner's or Tank Commander's field of view in the form of a reticle in both day and Thermal modes. The ballistic computer manipulates the turret and a complex arrangement of mirrors so that all one has to do is keep the reticle on the target and fire to achieve a hit. Proper lead and gun tube elevation are applied to the turret by the computer, greatly simplifying the job of the gunner.[citation needed]

A 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment soldier assisting in the critical job of "boresighting" the alignment of all the tank's sights to the center of the axis of the bore of the main gun on an M1A1 Abrams in Mosul, Iraq, in January 2005. Hand signals enable the gunner inside the tank to train the main gun onto a boresighting target.

The fire-control system uses this data to compute a firing solution for the gunner. The ballistic solution generated ensures a hit percentage greater than 95 percent at nominal ranges.[citation needed] Either the commander or gunner can fire the main gun. Additionally, the Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV) on the M1A2 can be used to locate targets and pass them on for the gunner to engage while the commander scans for new targets.

If the primary sight system malfunctions or is damaged, the main and coaxial weapons can be manually aimed using a telescopic scope boresighted to the main gun known as the Gunner's Auxiliary Sight (GAS). The GAS has two interchangeable reticles; one for HEAT and multi-purpose anti-tank (MPAT) ammunition and one for APFSDS and Smart Target-Activated Fire and Forget (STAFF) ammunition. Turret traverse and main gun elevation can be performed with manual handles and cranks if the fire control or hydraulic systems fail.

The commander's M2HB .50 caliber machine gun on the M1 and M1A1 is aimed by a 3× magnification sight incorporated into the Commander's Weapon Station (CWS), while the M1A2 uses the machine gun's own iron sights, or a remote aiming system such as the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) system when used as part of the Tank Urban Survival Kit. The loader's M240 machine gun is aimed either with the built-in iron sights or with a thermal scope mounted on the machine gun.[citation needed]

In late 2017, the 400 USMC M1A1 Abrams were to be upgraded with better and longer-range sights on the Abrams Integrated Display and Targeting System (AIDATS) replacing the black-and-white camera view with a color sight and day/night thermal sight, simplified handling with a single set of controls, and a slew to cue button that repositions the turret with one command. Preliminary testing showed the upgrades reduced target engagement time from six seconds to three by allowing the commander and gunner to work more closely and collaborate better on target acquisition.[126][127]

Mobility

Tactical

Marines from 1st Tank Battalion load a Honeywell AGT1500 multifuel turbine back into a tank at Camp Coyote, Kuwait, February 2003

The M1 Abrams's powertrain consists of an AGT1500 multifuel gas turbine (originally made by Lycoming, now Honeywell) capable of 1,500 shaft horsepower (1,100 kW) at 30,000 rpm and 395 lb⋅ft (536 N⋅m) at 10,000 rpm and a six-speed (four forward, two reverse) Allison X-1100-3B Hydro-Kinetic automatic transmission. This gives it a governed top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) on paved roads, and 30 mph (48 km/h) cross-country. With the engine governor removed, speeds of around 60 mph (97 km/h) are possible on an improved surface. However, damage to the drivetrain (especially to the tracks) and an increased risk of injuries to the crew can occur at speeds above 45 mph (72 km/h).

The tank was built around this engine[128] and it is multifuel-capable, including diesel, gasoline, marine diesel and jet fuel[129] (such as JP-4 or JP-8). In the AGT1500, jet fuel has poorer fuel economy and operating range compared to diesel. By 1989, the Army was transitioning solely to JP-8 for the M1 Abrams, part of a plan to reduce the service's logistics burden by using a single fuel for aviation and ground vehicles.[130] However, as of 2023, the U.S. Army frequently refuels the Abrams with diesel, which is also used by the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.[131] The Australian M1A1 AIM SA burns diesel fuel, since the use of JP-8 is less common in the Australian Army.[citation needed]

M1 driving controls

The gas turbine propulsion system has proven quite reliable in practice and combat, but its high fuel consumption is a serious logistic problem.[132] The engine burns more than 1.67 US gallons per mile (392 Liters/100 km) or (60 US gallons (230 L) per hour) when traveling cross-country and 10 US gallons (38 L) per hour when idle.[citation needed]

The high-speed, high-temperature jet blast emitted from the rear of M1 Abrams tanks makes it hazardous for infantry to take cover or follow behind the tank in urban combat.[citation needed] The turbine is very quiet when compared to diesel engines of similar power output and produces sound significantly different from a contemporary diesel tank engine, reducing the audible distance of the sound, thus earning the Abrams the nickname "whispering death" during its first Reforger exercise.[citation needed]

A Marine M1A1 offloading from a Landing Craft Air Cushioned vehicle

The Army received proposals, including two diesel options, to provide the common engine for the XM2001 Crusader and Abrams. In 2000, the Army selected the gas turbine engine LV100-5 from Honeywell and subcontractor General Electric.[133] The new LV100-5 engine was lighter and smaller (43% fewer parts) with rapid acceleration, quieter running, and no visible exhaust.[134] It also featured a 33% reduction in fuel consumption (50% less when idle) and near drop-in replacement.[135] The Common Engine Program was shelved when the Crusader program was canceled. Phase 2 of Army's PROSE (Partnership for Reduced O&S Costs, Engine) program, however, called for further development of the LV100-5 and replacement of the current AGT1500 engine.[136]

A Marine M1A1 fitted with snorkel attachment and bustle rack extension

An 220-pound (100 kg) Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was designed by the Army's TARDEC, replacing an existing battery pack that weighs about 500 pounds (230 kg). It uses a high power density 330 cc (20 in3) Wankel rotary engine modified to use diesel and military grade jet fuel. The new APU will also be more fuel efficient than the tank's main engine.[137] Testing of the first APUs began in 2009.

82nd Airborne paratroopers ride on an M1 Abrams by tank desant

Although the M1 tank is not designed to carry riders easily, provisions exist for the Abrams to transport troops in tank desant with the turret stabilization device switched off. A battle equipped infantry squad may ride on the rear of the tank, behind the turret. The soldiers can use ropes and equipment straps to provide handholds and snap links to secure themselves. If enemy contact is made the tank conceals itself,[clarification needed] allowing the infantry to dismount.[138]

Strategic

A U.S. Army M1A1 after being offloaded from a U.S. Air Force C-17 at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2004

Strategic mobility is the ability of the tanks of an armed force to arrive in a timely, cost effective, and synchronized fashion. The Abrams can be carried by a C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster III. The limited capacity (two combat-ready tanks in a C-5, one combat-ready tank in a C-17) caused serious logistical problems when deploying the tanks for the first Gulf War, though there was enough time for 1,848 tanks to be transported by ship.

The Marines transported their Marine Air-Ground Task Force Abrams tanks by combat ship. A Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) typically carried a platoon of four to five tanks attached to the deployed Marine Expeditionary Unit, which were then amphibiously transported to shore by Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) at one combat-ready tank per landing craft.

The Abrams is also transportable by truck, namely the Oshkosh M1070 and M1000 Heavy Equipment Transporter System (HETS) for the US Military. The HETS can operate on highways, secondary roads, and cross-country. It accommodates the four tank crew members.[139] The Australian Army uses customised MAN trucks to transport its Abrams.[140]

The first instance of the Abrams being airlifted directly into a battlefield occurred in October 1993. Following the Battle of Mogadishu, 18 M1 tanks were airlifted by C-5 aircraft to Somalia from Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.[141][142]

Variants and upgrades

An early M1 variant alongside the West German Leopard 2 demonstrated in Switzerland in 1981.

Tank Test Bed prototype
CATTB rendering c. 1992
AbramsX at AUSA 2022

Specialized

A U.S. Army M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge
A Grizzly Combat Mobility Vehicle (CMV)
An Assault Breacher Vehicle launching a line charge

Additional equipment

Specifications

Abrams specifications[citation needed]
M1 M1IP M1A1 M1A2 M1A2 SEP
Produced 1979–85 1984 1985–92 1992 on 1999 on
Length 32.04 ft (9.77 m)
Width 12 ft (3.7 m)
Height 7.79 ft (2.37 m) 8.0 ft (2.4 m)
Top speed 45 mph (72 km/h) 41.5 mph (66.8 km/h) 42 mph (68 km/h)
Range 310 mi (500 km) 275 mi (443 km) 288 mi (463 km) 265 mi (426 km) 264 mi (425 km)
Power 1,500 shp (1,100 kW)
Weight 61.4 short tons (55.7 t) 62.8 short tons (57.0 t) M1A1: 61.5 short tons (55.8 t)
M1A1SA: 67.6 short tons (61.3 t)
68.4 short tons (62.1 t) SEP v1: 69.5 short tons (63.0 t)
SEP v2: 71.2 short tons (64.6 t)SEP v3: 73.6 short tons (66.8 t)
Main armament 105 mm M68A1 rifled 120 mm M256 smoothbore
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
Protection Chobham armor Longer turret for thicker composite array M1A1: BRL-2 composite armor
M1A1HA/HC/M1A2: Depleted uranium inserts in frontal turret arrays

M1A1 AIM/SA: Depleted uranium inserts in hull and turret

Depleted uranium inserts in hull and turret
Improved Chobham armor and increased turret armor
Additions of ARAT ERA, slat armor

Operators

Current operators

M1 Abrams operators
An Australian Abrams tank in 2021
Egyptian Abrams tank deployed during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution
M1A1M Abrams tanks in Iraqi service, January 2011

Future operators

Former operators

See also

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ During early development in the late 1970s it was referred to as the XM-1E.

Notes

  1. ^ In firearms the breech is part of a firearm at the rear of the barrel, as defined by Merriam Webster.

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Bibliography

Tanks of the post–Cold War era