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  • Tanks are a valued military asset in nearly  every country's military. Even after the Second  

  • World War, which saw most of the last massive  tank-on-tank battles, tanks have proven useful  

  • in battlefields across the globe. However, the  race to consistently develop new and better  

  • tanks has been a challenge. New designs sought  to improve capabilities such as accuracy, weight,  

  • sighting systems, and countermeasures  against mines and missiles. Thus,  

  • it is unsurprising that there has been a wide  range of tank models, variants, and types  

  • that have developed over the years. But among all  the various technological advancements, one tank  

  • has reigned supreme above them all: the M1 Abrams. So what exactly is the M1 Abrams, and what makes  

  • it so much better than every tank currently  employed today? To begin with, the M1 Abrams tank  

  • model is the American Army's current main battle  tank, as well as that of several countries like  

  • Iraq and Saudi Arabia, since the tank has been  exported albeit without advanced sighting systems.  

  • The variant currently in US inventories  is one of the world's heaviest tanks,  

  • boasting a massive weight of 68 tons. The  model has multiple innovative features that  

  • set it apart from other tank models in  what is considered the heavy tank class

  • But to understand how the M1 Abrams achieved this  remarkable title of the world's best heavy tank,  

  • it is important to understand why it was  developed in the first place. During the Cold War,  

  • the Russians were definitely outpacing the United  States in tank technology. Tanks such as the T-55  

  • and T-72 main battle tanks had a sighting, armorand gun systems all superior to what the US  

  • and its allies could field at the time. The  current tank in US arsenals, the aging M60 Patton,  

  • was a reliable and superb tank that performed  excellently during the Vietnam War and later  

  • Persian Gulf War. However, despite havinggood enough tank, the US wanted the best tank

  • Production started in collaboration with  several NATO allies, including West Germany,  

  • to make a tank used by all of the armies and  which had common parts that would make maintenance  

  • a breeze when operating with coalition armiesThe first design this collaboration produced was  

  • the experimental MBT-70, which was developed  with a great amount of assistance from West  

  • German engineers. However, despite its early  technological advancements, the new design  

  • far exceeded production costs, which made many  politicians doubt if it was worth continuing

  • Ultimately, Congress decided it was not  worth the costs, and the MBT-70 project was  

  • officially canceled in December 1971. Despite  this failure, Major general William Robertson  

  • Desobry was appointed to lead an expert team  to continue developing a new tank in secret.  

  • This team was tasked with determining a new tank  model's requirements to successfully replace the  

  • M60 Patton. After multiple collaborations  between the Pentagon and Congress,  

  • a contract was awarded to Chrysler Corporation  and General Motors to produce the new model's  

  • prototypes. The Department of Defense ultimately  chose the prototype developed by Chrysler Defense,  

  • now under the General Dynamics  Land Systems Division

  • After several years of testing and tweaking, the  final product was finally ready for production in  

  • 1979. Between 1979 to 1985, the first production  run of the M1 Abrams went into full development.  

  • The first models were formally added to American  military inventories in 1980. By 1992, more than  

  • 6000 M1A1 Abrams were produced. Of course, not  all of these were of the original M1 design.  

  • Several new features were added between the  initial and the second production run, with  

  • the biggest change being the main gun employedThe initial production run tanks had the 105mm  

  • rifled guns while the second production run ones  had a better smoothbore cannon installedthe  

  • M256 120 mm. Interestingly enough, West Germany  deserves the credit for creating this cannon  

  • since it was initially designed for the Leopard  2, which became the main German battle tank

  • Despite the influence of German design in some  of the tank's major systems, the General Dynamics  

  • Land Systems reserves the basic design credits  of the M1 Abrams base model. Additionally,  

  • all of the tanks themselves have been manufactured  in the United States. Between 1980 to 1996,  

  • production was done at the Detroit Arsenal  Tank Plant. Since then, the main production  

  • has shifted to the Lima Army Tank Plant. This  plant has been producing M1 Abrams since 1980.  

  • Each unit, on average, costs 6.21 million  dollars to produce. However, the costs have  

  • increased in recent years. An inflation-adjusted  estimate suggests that the tank cost more than  

  • 8.92 million dollars per tank in 2016. To date, almost 10,288 tanks have been  

  • produced. However, the number is approximate and  does not include any prototype productions. There  

  • have also been wide varieties of tanks produced  to meet various needs or improve on existing  

  • technologies. Despite some of these equipment  upgrades, the basics of the hull design remain  

  • untouched. The tank boasts a forward gun length  of 32 feet. The Hull or main body of the tank  

  • is almost 24 feet long in length. All of the  tank variants also carry a four-person crew,  

  • each with specific roles in the tank's operation. One person serves as the machine gunner and is  

  • also the tank commander who directs where the  tank will go and what weapon systems to employ.  

  • Then there is the gunner whose job is to sight  and fire the main gun. The loader assists the  

  • gunner by grabbing ammunition from the back  and getting the gun ready to fire. Lastly,  

  • of course, is the driver who sits up front. The M1 Abrams is meant for defeating any tank  

  • it comes across, and its ammunition is one of  the main tools it uses to accomplish this task.  

  • One of the features that make the ammunition  so useful it is depleted uranium and sabot  

  • characteristics. Depleted Uranium gets extremely  hot and packs a tremendous amount of force,  

  • while the sabot projectile characteristic allows  the needle-like round to be fired from the main  

  • cannon with tremendous force. This enables  the round to penetrate armor that no other  

  • munitions can. Combining these two technologies  together makes for an incredibly deadly duo

  • To accomplish its tank hunting task, the  base variant is equipped with 55 rounds for  

  • its M68A1 rifled gun. In comparison, the later  models equipped with the longer M256A1 variant  

  • have only 40 rounds of ammunition. In addition to  its main gun, the tanks also come standard with a  

  • 50-caliber heavy machine gun for lightly  armored and entrenched targets. Lastly,  

  • there are two 7.62 mm M240 machine guns to help  repel infantry attacks against the vehicle

  • Despite its massive size, the tank can actually  reach a max speed of 45 miles per hour on roads,  

  • while off-road travel can still reach  an impressive 43 miles per hour,  

  • all with a max range of 310 miles. Later models  such as the M1A2 perform slightly less than the  

  • earlier models due to being about ten tons heavier  with advanced armor upgrades. Because of this, the  

  • max range in this regard is a little lower than  the flagship model coming in at around 260 miles

  • Even though the tank is among the most advanced  in the world, its systems have also been  

  • proven in combat. The first use of M1 Abrams in  combat was during the Persian Gulf War of 1991.  

  • Iraqi-Soviet T-55 and T-62 were older  models fielded against the M1 Abrams,  

  • giving the Americans a clear competitive advantage  during the war. The T-72s, the most advanced tank  

  • created by the Soviets, did not even have modern  range-finding equipment or night vision systems.  

  • As a result, the US inflicted heavy damage on the  enemy tanks with minimal losses suffered. Only 23  

  • US tanks were destroyed completely, and these were  due mostly to missiles, mines, and friendly fire.  

  • The older enemy tanks could not hit most US  tanks due to their limited sighting systems  

  • and lack of night vision equipment. In fact, none  of the M1 Abrams were destroyed due to direct  

  • enemy tank fire. Even those damaged to indirect  fires, no American lives were lost in those  

  • tanks proving its crew survival capabilities. In the Persian Gulf War, it was clearly evident  

  • that the sighting system, night vision equipmentand long-range gun could enable the M1 Abrams to  

  • hit any tank it wanted while still staying out  of range of return fire. The long-range of 2500  

  • meters supported by the Abrams was crucial in  desert warfare. On the other hand, Iraqi tanks had  

  • a lower range of about 2000 meters. Thus, American  M1 Abrams had a clear buffer zone of 500 meters  

  • from the moment an Iraqi tank entered its rangeto the moment the Iraqi tank could hit the M1  

  • Abram. Several high profile victories at the  Battle of Norfolk and the Battle of 73 Eastings  

  • that left dozens of Iraqi tanks destroyed with no  losses on the US side prove that the Abrams in a  

  • direct tank on tank combat was untouchable. One of the advancements in technology after  

  • the war was the addition of combat identification  panels. These panels could show an infrared beacon  

  • to friendly troops since of all the tanks lost in  the war, the vast majority were due to friendly  

  • fire. Another addition after the war was the  M136 AT4 anti-tank rocket system. This weapon is  

  • actually designed to be fired by individual people  and used when the battle was taking place in an  

  • urban area. Urban battles require smaller weapons  as the main long gun may not turn completely

  • More advancements would follow as the tank  continued service into the 21st century.  

  • A second, larger storage area was installed in  the rear of the tank to hold more ammunition.  

  • When the M1A2 came into existence, the commander's  situational awareness was improved with a separate  

  • weapon station and thermal imaging system. Other  technologies added were more advanced navigation  

  • equipment and radio interference units to jam  enemy signals such as cell phone signals for IEDs.  

  • A system overhaul known as the System Enhancement  Package was also given to make the older model  

  • M1A1 tanks still serviceable for years to come. By the time the United States invaded Iraq  

  • again in 2003, the Iraqis were well  prepared for the M1 Abrams tank.  

  • Utilizing special hunter-killer tank teams and  anti-aircraft guns, five Abrams tanks were lost  

  • in Karbala and Baghdad's crowded streets. Multiple  tanks were also destroyed by US forces to prevent  

  • the Iraqis from getting ahold of secret technology  on board after they were disabled or became stuck  

  • in the mud. Such examples prove that even  though the tank is the best in the world,  

  • contrary to popular belief, it is not invincible. Even though the most current version, the M1A2,  

  • is not invincible, that has not stopped the  US Army from developing ways to make it so.  

  • One of the major areas of study has been  towards the XM1202 Mounted Combat System.  

  • This experimental technology envisions replacing  not only the M1 Abrams with a lighter, faster,  

  • and more powerful tank but to forgo the need for  additional armored vehicles for reconnaissance  

  • and urban environments. Sort of like the  F-35 of tanks, this system will build upon  

  • the lessons learned from the Abrams and give  commanders more utility and options than before

  • But with the project still in its prototype  stages, it is unlikely to replace the Abrams  

  • any time soon. The M1 Abrams will be expected  to have an operating life well into the first  

  • half of this century and will remainfeared opponent for foes for years to come.

Tanks are a valued military asset in nearly  every country's military. Even after the Second  

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B1 tank abrams m1 gun main production

Evolution of the M1 Abrams Tank (USA / American Military Main Battle Tank)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/29
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