The M1, M1A1, M1A2 Abrams are the US Army main battle tanks. Developed by Chrysler Defense, the M1 entered service in 1980. Now both tanks are manufactured by Lima Army Tank Plant in Ohio. The Abrams tank comes in three versions. In its M1 form, it packs the British 105mm rifled gun; in its M1A1 and M1A2 variants, it carries the same German Rhinemetall 120mm smoothbore gun that is fitted to the Leopard 2. The latter versions are powered by a Honeywell AGT1500C multi-fuel turbine engine, capable of driving the tank at the top speed of 41.5 miles per hour (66.8 km/h) with a range of 310 miles (500km).
The M1A1/M1A2 Abrams is protected by the British-designed Chobham armor, which is a composite armor formed by spacing multiple layers of various alloys of steel, ceramics, plastic composites, and kevlar, giving an estimated maximum (frontal turret) 1,320–1,620mm (52–64 in) of rolled homogeneous armor versus HEAT, and 940–960mm (37–38 in) versus kinetic energy penetrators. To protect the crew against spalling, the inside of the tank is lined with kevlar. The M1A2 tank received improved armor packages that incorporated depleted uranium (DU) mesh in their armor at the front of the turret and the front of the hull.
In 1991, the Abrams tanks participated satisfactorily in Operation Desert Storm where M1A1 showed overwhelming superiority to Iraq’s Soviet-era T-55 and T-62 tanks, as well as Iraqi-assembled Russian T-72s. 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 meters (6,600 ft). During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm some M1A1s were modified with armor upgrades. 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 depleted uranium ammunition during the Battle of Norfolk.
During the 2003 Iraqi War, a few Abrams were disabled by Iraqi infantrymen in ambushes during the invasion. Some enemy troops employed short-range anti-tank rockets and fired at the tracks, rear and top whereas the majority of Abrams damaged post-invasion were by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Other tanks were put out of action when struck in critical places by heavy machine gun rounds which damaged the tank’s electronic sensors, blinding them, but in every cases when an Abrams tank was put out of action by hostile insurgent troops, the tank’s crew were alive in one piece inside their Chobham fortress. Due to the vulnerability of tanks in urban combat, the Tank Urban Survival Kit, or TUSK, is being issued to some M1 Abrams. It adds protection in the rear and side of the tank to improve fighting ability in urban environments.
Specifications for the M1A2 Abrams
Type: main battle tank
Weight: 61.3 tones
Width: 12 ft (3.7m)
Height: 8.0 ft (2.4 m)
Length: 26.02 ft (7.93 m) without gun
Crew: 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
Engine: Honeywell AGT1500C multi-fuel turbine engine (1,500 shp)
Maximum speed: 41.5 miles per hour (66.8 km/h)
Range: 310 miles (500km)
Weapons: 120mm L44 M256 smoothbore cannon; one .50-caliber (12.7 mm) M2HB 900 rounds heavy machine gun; two 7.62 mm (.308) M240 machine guns (1 pintle-mounted, 1 coaxial)
M1A1 Abrams Tank in Action in Iraq (Video)