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The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. The M1 is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. It is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for modern armored ground warfare. Notable features of the M1 Abrams include the use of a powerful gas turbine engine, the adoption of sophisticated composite armor, and separate ammunition storage in a blow-out compartment for crew safety. It is one of the heaviest tanks in service, weighing in at close to 68 short tons (almost 62 metric tons).

The M1 Abrams entered U.S. service in 1980, replacing the 105 mm gun, full tracked M60 Patton. It did, however, serve for over a decade alongside the improved M60A3, which had entered service in 1978. Three main versions of the M1 Abrams have been deployed, the M1, M1A1, and M1A2, incorporating improved armament, protection and electronics. These improvements, as well as periodic upgrades to older tanks have allowed this long-serving vehicle to remain in front-line service. The M1A3 is currently under development. It is the principal main battle tank of the United States Army and Marine Corps, and the armies of Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and in 2010 Iraq. The M1 Abrams is anticipated to be in U.S. service until the 2050s, approximately 70 years after entering U.S. service.


Development [1An XM1 Abrams, during a demonstration at Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1979.The first attempt to replace the aging M60 tank was the MBT-70, developed in partnership with West Germany in the 1960s. The MBT-70 was very ambitious, and had various ideas that ultimately proved unsuccessful. As a result of the imminent failure of this project, the U.S. Army introduced the XM803. This succeeded only in producing an expensive system with capabilities similar to the M60.

Congress canceled the MBT-70 in November and XM803 December 1971, and redistributed the funds to the new XM815 later renamed the XM1 Abrams after General Creighton Abrams. Prototypes were delivered in 1976 by Chrysler Defense and General Motors armed with the license-built version of the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun along with a Leopard 2 for comparison. The Chrysler Defense design was selected for development as the M1. In 1979, General Dynamics Land Systems Division purchased Chrysler Defense.

3273 M1 Abrams were produced 1979-85 and first entered US Army service in 1980. It was armed with the license-built version of the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun. An improved model called the M1IP was produced briefly in 1984 and contained small upgrades. The M1IP models were used in the Canadian Army Trophy NATO tank gunnery competition in 1985 and 1987.

About 6000 M1A1 Abrams were produced from 1986–92 and featured the M256 120 mm smoothbore cannon developed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany for the Leopard 2, improved armor, and a CBRN protection system.

HistoryEdit

Gulf WarEdit

Abrams move out on a mission during the Gulf War. A Bradley IFV and logistics convoy can be seen in the background.As the Abrams entered service in the 1980s, they would operate alongside M60A3 within the United States military, and with other NATO tanks in numerous Cold War exercises. These exercises usually took place in Western Europe, especially West Germany, but also in some other countries like South Korea. During such training, Abrams crews honed their skills for use against the men and equipment of the Soviet Union. However, by 1991 the USSR had collapsed and the Abrams would have its trial by fire in the Middle East.

The Abrams remained untested in combat until the Gulf War in 1991. A total of 1,848 M1A1s were deployed to Saudi Arabia. The M1A1 was superior to Iraq's Soviet-era T-55 and T-62 tanks, as well as Iraqi-assembled Russian T-72s, and locally-produced copies (Asad Babil tank). 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—just not the latest starlight scopes and passive infrared scopes as on the Abrams. Only 23 M1A1s were taken out of service in the Gulf[. Some others took minor combat damage, with little effect on their operational readiness. Very few Abrams tanks were hit by enemy fire, and there was only one fatality, along with a handful of woundings as a result. ]An M1A1 destroyed by Iraqi fire during the Liberation of Kuwait.The M1A1 was capable of making kills at ranges in excess of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). This range was crucial in combat against tanks of Soviet design in Desert Storm, as the effective range of the main gun in the Soviet/Iraqi tanks was less than 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) (Iraqi tanks could not fire anti-tank missiles like their Russian counterparts). 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 at least in two occasions by friendly DU ammunition during the Battle of Norfolk.

Interwar upgradesEdit

The M1A2 was a further improvement of the M1A1 with a commander's independent thermal viewer and weapon station, position navigation equipment, digital data bus and a radio interface unit. The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) added digital maps, FBCB2 (Force XXI Battlefield Command Brigade and Below) capabilities, and an improved cooling system to maintain crew compartment temperature with the addition of multiple computer systems to the M1A2 tank.

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), a commonality program to standardize parts between the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps (M1A1HC) and an electronic upgrade for the A2 (M1A2 SEP).

During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and for Bosnia, some M1A1s were modified with armor upgrades. The M1 can be equipped with mine plow and mine roller attachments if needed. The M1 chassis also serves as a basis for the Grizzly combat engineering vehicle and the M104 Wolverine heavy assault bridge.

Over 8,800 M1 and M1A1 tanks have been produced at a cost of US$2.35–$4.30 million per unit, depending on the variant.

Iraq WarEdit

M1A1 conducts reconnaissance in Iraq in September 2004.Further combat was seen during 2003 when US forces invaded Iraq and deposed the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. As of March 2005, approximately 80 Abrams tanks were forced out of action by enemy attacks. Nevertheless, the campaign saw very similar performance from the tank with no Abrams crew member being lost to hostile fire during the invasion of Iraq, although several tank crew members were later killed by roadside bombs during the occupation that followed.

The most lopsided achievement of the M1A2s was the destruction of seven T-72 Lion of Babylon tanks in a point-blank skirmish (less than 50 yards (46 m)) near Mahmoudiyah, about 18 miles (29 km) south of Baghdad, with no losses for the American side. In addition to the Abrams' already heavy armament, some crews were also issued M136 AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons under the assumption that they might have to engage heavy armor in tight urban areas where the main gun could not be brought to bear.

Following lessons learned in Desert Storm, the Abrams and many other US combat vehicles used in the conflict were fitted with Combat Identification Panels to reduce friendly fire incidents. These were fitted on the sides and rear of the turret, with flat panels equipped with a four-cornered 'box' image on either side of the turret front (as seen in the image above). Some Abrams were also fitted with a secondary storage bin on the back of the existing bustle rack on the rear of the turret referred to as a bustle rack extension to enable the crew to carry more supplies and personal belongings.

Many Abrams (irrecoverable due to loss of mobility or other circumstances) were destroyed by friendly forces to prevent their capture, usually by other Abrams, who often found them very difficult to destroy despite their firepower.

A majority of Abrams damaged post-invasion were by Improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Some Abrams 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 when struck in critical places by heavy machine gun rounds.

Due to the vulnerability of tanks in urban combat, the Tank Urban Survival Kit, or TUSK, is being issued to some M1 Abrams. It is intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments.

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