Amazing Facts About M1 Abrams Tank

M1 Abrams- US soldiers setup their M1 Abram Tanks during Getica Saber 17


Named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US forces in Vietnam from 1968 to ’72, the General Dynamics M1 Abrams (and now its current variants) is the premier Main Battle Tank in the world. Originally developed in 1980, the Abrams is highly mobile and technologically advanced.

M1 Abrams- tank fires a round during a combined arms live fire exercise

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

The first time M1 Abrams tanks entered combat was the Persian Gulf War in Operation Desert Storm 1991. Of the 1,848 M1A1s deployed, only 14 were damaged and 9 were destroyed. Accidental friendly fire destroyed seven M1 Abrams and two were purposely destroyed to avoid capture.

M1 Abrams- Pvt. Gabriel Colon performs maintenance on a M1 Abrams tank


M1 Abrams- US soldiers setup their M1 Abram Tanks during Getica Saber 17

Spc. Kelsey M VanFleet, U.S. Army

As of 2018, M1 Abrams remains the main battle tank of the United States Army and Marine Corps. Given that its development began in the early 1980s, that’s nearly four decades of being king of the battlefield. There is also an export version used by armies worldwide, including Australia, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military has continued to make improvements and new additions to the tank throughout the years.

M1 Abrams - soldiers uses a smoke grenade to secure an area during a combined arms live fire exercise


M1 Abrams- Pvt. Gabriel Colon performs maintenance on a M1 Abrams tank

Spc. Dustin Biven, U.S. Army

The 2003 invasion of Iraq revealed M1 Abrams’ susceptibilities during urban combat. Attackers got close enough to hit weak points in the tank’s armor. To reduce damaged vehicles, the U.S. Army implemented the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK), a series of modifications that include armor upgrades and a gun shield. The system allows tanks to be upgraded on the fly without needing to go back to maintenance depots. In 2006, the U.S. Army put in an order for 505 TUSK kits from Dynamics Land System.

M1 Abrams - set radio frequencies and test communications


M1 Abrams - soldiers uses a smoke grenade to secure an area during a combined arms live fire exercise

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

M1 Abrams can obstruct vision and thermal imaging from the enemy by creating a thick smoke barrier using two six-barreled M250 smoke grenade launchers fitted on the tank’s turret. When the grenades airburst, they produce smoke to shield the vehicle. Along with the grenade launcher, the tanks are equipped with a smoke generator that the driver can trigger. It creates smoke by spraying fuel into hot turbine exhaust. Currently, the smoke generator is disabled on most Abrams due to a shift in fuel from diesel to Jp-8.

M1 Abrams- tank fires on a target during a live-fire range


M1 Abrams - set radio frequencies and test communications

StaffSgt. Jeremy Ganz, U.S. Army

M1 Abrams automatically put out fires in the crew’s compartment with an equipped halon firefighting system. The crew also has access to another firefighting system in the engine compartment, which they activate by pulling a T-handle on the hull’s left side. Along with these systems, the crew compartment holds additional fire extinguishers. In case you are worried about the ammunition cooking off, the engineers thought of that too. The main guns fuel and ammo are in armored compartments protected by blowout panels.

M1 Abrams - U.S. Army Soldiers setup their M1 Abram Tanks during Getica Saber 17, July 10, 2017


M1 Abrams- tank fires on a target during a live-fire range

Staff Sgt. Dengrier Baez, U.S. Marine Corps

“War of the Worlds” (2005) was the first major motion picture to use real M1 Abrams rather than tanks modified to look like them. The movie follows Rey Ferrier (Tom Cruise), who is trying to fight for his family’s survival against an alien invasion backdrop. You can first spot the tanks midway through the film after the Hudson River scene. The Marines fight the alien tripods, while Ray tries to take daughter to safety.


M1 Abrams - U.S. Army Soldiers setup their M1 Abram Tanks during Getica Saber 17, July 10, 2017

Spc. Kelsey M VanFleet, U.S. Army

The U.S. Army prepared for a temporary end to the production of the M1 Abrams at the Lima Army Tank Plant from 2013 to 2016 to save over $1 billion. In August 2013, Congress allocated $181 million for buying parts and upgrading Abrams systems to alleviate the risks of sustained development and production. General Dynamics claims that a total shutdown, subject to the length of time, would have cost $1.1-1.6 billion for the line to reopen.

M1 Abrams - An M1A2 Abrams tank conducts live-fire training Dec. 14, 2017-


Due to its discreet maneuverability and firepower, M1 Abrams has been given unofficial titles such as “Dracula,” “The Beast,” and “Whispering Death.” These are good monster names for a monster tank. Along with these, in the military exercise Defender Europe 2020, participants wrote nicknames on the long barrels. Some include “Django,” “Body Count,” and “Stallion.” One that got a lot of attention was the U.S. Army’s “Baby Yoda” nicknamed after a fan given title for a character on the Star Wars TV show “The Mandalorian.” Why the heck not?


M1 Abrams - An M1A2 Abrams tank conducts live-fire training Dec. 14, 2017-

Pfc. Shelton Smith, U.S. Army

As of 2016, the estimated cost for an M1A2 is the U.S. $8.92 million. It seems pretty affordable, right? Unfortunately, the U.S. Government does not allow citizens to purchase these tanks, so you are out of luck if you hope to buy one. Though, maybe, it is for the best. In 1981, the Army’s Deputy Director for Weapons Systems estimated operation cost would be around $310,600 for the Ml tank and $338,200 for the MlAl tank. Imagine how much they’d be now. Though we are certain refinements were made since then.

M1 Abrams- Types of tanks- M1, M1A1, M1A2


One of the coolest facts about M1 Abrams is its longevity. The M1 Abrams has seen combat in the Persian Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Iraqi Civil War, and Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. It has evolved from a Cold War-era brute to a modernized tactical weapon and continues to improve. For example, in 2009, information about the development of an M1A3 was publically released. The U.S. Army began designs early that year.


M1 Abrams- Types of tanks- M1, M1A1, M1A2

Staff Sgt. Erica Knight, Sgt. Chris Garcia, Pfc. Zachery Perkins – U.S. Army

There are three central types of M1 Abrams that have been developed and deployed: the M1, M1A1, and the M1A2. The M1 is the fastest of the group with a 45 mph speed, and the M1A2 is the heaviest at 68.7 tons. The M1A2 tank was built from its inception to have standard depleted uranium armor.M1A1 tanks still in active duty received the armor as an upgrade beginning in1988. The armor is very dense.

M60A3 REFORGER '85 -The commander of an M60A3 main battle tank searches for opposing force positions during CENTRAL GUARDIAN


Getty

The M1 Abrams was named after the United States Army General Creighton Abrams. Abrams directed military operations in the Vietnam War from 1968-1972 and served as Army Chief of Staff from 1972-1974. He also served in World War II in the 4th Armored Division and later as the chief of staff of the I, X, and IX Corps in South Korea (1953-1954). Abrams was promoted to general in 1964 and appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army.

M1 Abrams - soldiers stand ready during training in Adazi, Latvia


M60A3 REFORGER '85 -The commander of an M60A3 main battle tank searches for opposing force positions during CENTRAL GUARDIAN

Ssgt. David Nolan, Aerospace Audiovidual Service

The M1 Abrams eventually replaced the M60 as the United States’ main battle tank. The M60 was officially standardized in March 1959. The base design was cultivated from the M48 Patton. Over its lifetime, Chrysler built 15,000 tanks with hull production ending in 1983. Once development and production began to fire up for the M1 Abram, the United States decided not to take on further upgrades for the M60 after 1979. In 1990, 5,400 older models were transformed into M60A3s. M60 is still used heavily by NATO Allies like Egypt, Turkey, and Israel.

M1 Abrams- soldiers listen as other members of their crew call out information to them during the Tactical Combat Casualty Care event in the Gen


M1 Abrams - soldiers stand ready during training in Adazi, Latvia

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

The principal armament of the M1 Abrams model was the M68A1 105mm rifled tank gun. The gun was quickly upgraded because it did not fire nearly as far as originally detailed. The M1A1 and M1A2 now come equipped with a 120 mm smoothbore gun designed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany that can shoot a variety of rounds, including high-explosive, anti-tank warhead-shaped charge rounds. Watervliet Arsenal, New York, constructs the weapons.

M1 Abrams- A Soldier a prepares for a live-fire exercise in an M1A2 Abrams tank in the Fort Bliss training


M1 Abrams- soldiers listen as other members of their crew call out information to them during the Tactical Combat Casualty Care event in the Gen

Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, U.S. Army

Three secondary machine guns come equipped on the M1 Abrams, with an optional fourth. They include one 50-caliber M2HB heavy machine gun mounted on the commander’s hatch in the front and two M240 7.62mm machine guns with one on a skate mount in front of the loader’s hatch and the other on the coaxial mount. The fourth optional weapon is a second coaxial .50 cal. M2HB machine gun placed above the main gun.

M1 Abrams- troopers re their main gun round at a target during unit gunnery


M1 Abrams- A Soldier a prepares for a live-fire exercise in an M1A2 Abrams tank in the Fort Bliss training

Abigail Meyer

Machine gun fire on M1A2’s is often reserved for attacking infantry soldiers rather than tank battles. The two machine guns must be operated manually, requiring a hatch to open for soldiers to get to the tank’s exterior. Some come equipped with a Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (Crows), which allows the soldier to use a display, switches, and a joystick to remote control the machine guns without leaving the tank.


M1 Abrams- troopers re their main gun round at a target during unit gunnery

Spc. Leo Jenkins, U.S. Army

The M1 Abrams contain a ballistic fire-control computer that incorporates both user and system-supplied data. This data comes from various sources to determine and present the three mechanisms of a ballistic solution: lead angle, ammunition category, and range to target. Some of the sources utilized, to just name a few, include air temperature, a crosswind sensor, a laser rangefinder, a muzzle reference system (MRS), and a pendulum static cant sensor.

M1 Abrams- crewman communicates from driver seat in a M1A1


A tank cannot function without a good team. Regarding the M1 Abrams, a four-member crew operates it: A driver, commander/machine gunner, loader, and a gunner. The commander has additional responsibilities, including observation post/listening post (OP/LP) operations, upkeep support, etc. That sounds like a good time to us. Sometimes these tanks are moved by a truck named Oshkosh M1070 and M1000 Heavy Equipment Transporter System (HETS). HETS include space for the whole crew.


M1 Abrams- crewman communicates from driver seat in a M1A1

Cpl. Gabrielle Quire, U.S. Marine Corps

Move over luxury vehicles, the quality and comfort of M1 Abrams tank seats cannot be beaten. It’s not your typical driver seat. In M1 Abrams, the driver sits under the main gun in the hull’s front segment in a reclining form-fitting bucket seat. They feel almost like dentist chairs. Most crew members believe the driver’s area is the comfiest part of the tank. If that’s true, and the crew needed to sleep in the vehicle, we know where they’d go. So, who calls dibs?

M1 Abrams - U.S. Marines arrive in an M1A1 Abrams at Tactical Assembly Area Abrams tank during exercise


The driver steers the M1 Abrams with a handlebar and accelerates by rotating the handle grip throttle. The tank brakes via a pedal on the floor. There is also an emergency brake. A fact we should also mention is the driver has a heater. That sounds perhaps a tad more difficult than your typical automatic car. We wonder how long and how much training it takes to understand the minutia of maneuvering such a large vehicle.

M1 Abrams- refuel M1 Abrams tank


M1 Abrams - U.S. Marines arrive in an M1A1 Abrams at Tactical Assembly Area Abrams tank during exercise

Sgt. Allison DeVries, U.S. Marine Corps

M1 Abrams weighs 60 tons. The M1A1, on the other hand, weighs 63 tons, while the M1A2 weighs 72 tons. Even the tank’s gun barrel (Rheinmetall’s L/44 tank gun) weighs 2,620 lb, and the gun mount weights 7,313 lb. We will put the weight in perspective, 60 tons is roughly equivalent to 9 elephants, or 3/4 of a space shuttle. That is huge! Do not let one of these things run over your foot.

M1 Abrams- tank moves to secure an area during a Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration


M1 Abrams- refuel M1 Abrams tank

Sgt. Gregory Summers, U.S. Army

The fuel capacity of an M1 Abrams is slightly over 500 US gallons. That’s about 30 beer kegs worth of fuel. If you were ever concerned about them running out on missions, the Army has you covered with operations such as “refuel on the move” (ROM). ROM essentially gives convoy movements a ‘fuel splash’ to extend maneuverability to reach the desired location when complete refueling is not necessary. In other words, vehicles will have refueling spots and receive a fixed quantity of fuel before going back on the move. Though not used regularly, the Army still trains ROM. For instance, the 1st Armored Division performed a 6-point ROM during a training exercise on March 30, 2015.

M1 Abrams-Iraqi soldier operates the Advanced Gunnery Training System in M1


M1 Abrams- tank moves to secure an area during a Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

The reason for so much fuel capacity? M1 Abrams get around .6mpg – putting its range at roughly 300 miles. When traveling cross-country, the engine alone burns over 1.67 US gallons per mile. If the engine is idle, it consumes about 10 US gallons per hour. Wow! That is a lot of fuel consumption. If you drive one of these things, you better keep it in motion. We wonder if tanks have cruise control.

M1 Abrams- tank crew from North Carolina Army National Guard perform in 2016 Sullivan Cup


M1 Abrams-Iraqi soldier operates the Advanced Gunnery Training System in M1

Sgt. Paul Sale, U.S. Army

The driver navigates the M1 Abrams by using three periscopes, also known as vision blocks. They can also substitute one of the periscopes for a night vision sensor if the crew is performing night operations. The periscopes allow the driver to have up to a 120-degree field of view in the tank. When operating the vehicle, the driver also has to be aware of behind them since they do not have a rearview angle.

M1 Abrams - crew in M1A1 conduct a counter improvised explosive device mission in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2007


M1 Abrams- tank crew from North Carolina Army National Guard perform in 2016 Sullivan Cup

Sgt. 1st Class Adam Fischman, Army National Guard

Excluding the driver, the rest of the M1 Abrams crew sits in the turret basket (the turret’s interior compartment). The gunner rides on the right of the turret toward the front. The loader is on the left side near the back. The commander rides in the back on the right side of the turret. It sounds like a practical use of space, but quite tight fitting. Thankfully, most Abrams have bustle racks for a little extra storage.

M1 Abrams- troopers fire the main gun round at a target during unit gunnery in M1A1-SA


M1 Abrams - crew in M1A1 conduct a counter improvised explosive device mission in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2007

Specialist Thornberry, U.S. Army

All the roles when operating a tank are essential, especially the commander. An M1 Abrams commander has many duties, including directing the crew in the turret basket, managing the tank’s operations, and corresponds with other tank commanders. They also have access to a joystick-controlled thermal night vision viewer, several periscopes, and an integrated display that provides data of various Abrams systems and its position. You can find this crew member sitting inside the appropriately titled Commander’s Hatch.

M1 Abrams- soldier loads round into gun


M1 Abrams- troopers fire the main gun round at a target during unit gunnery in M1A1-SA

Pfc. Calab Franklin, U.S. Army

Aside from the obvious duties such as targeting and firing, the gunner is responsible for consistently assessing the main gun’s condition and has access to the tank’s front machine gun. They are seated on the right side of the turret near the commander. The gunner has admission to a firing solution sent by the fire-control computer, which collects system-supplied data. The commander also has access to the main gun free from the gunner.

M1 Abrams- combat team fires a .50 caliber machine gun from the top of an M1A2 Abrams tank during training


M1 Abrams- soldier loads round into gun

Sgt. 1st Class Adam Fischman, U.S. Army National Guard

One of the coolest facts about M1 Abrams is that it’s equipped with sliding armored doors and armored boxes that separate the crew from the main gun ammunition. The loader retrieves rounds from the ammunition compartment based on the gunner’s instructions before loading them into the main gun. The loader’s station is situated on the left side of the turret. They do not have access to special fire control equipment.


M1 Abrams- combat team fires a .50 caliber machine gun from the top of an M1A2 Abrams tank during training

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

The commander and loader have access to the two machine guns mounted on the top of the turret. The commander also has six periscopes that offer various 360-degree sights, so him getting to the turret quickly can be paramount. This Texas Instruments produced Independent Thermal Viewer (ITV) gives the commander stabilized day and night vision along with automatic sector scanning, and automatic target cueing to send to the gunner. Very Nice!


Spc. Kelsey M VanFleet, U.S. Army

M1 Abrams is 12 feet wide (3.66m) and 8 feet high (2.44m). That’s about the size of two king mattresses stacked end-to-end and as high as the ceiling. The hull’s length is 26.02 ft (7.93m), and with the gun forward, the tank is 32.04 ft (9.77 m) long. That is almost the size of two average cars. As big as that is, the tank is still amazing for holding up to four people for an extended length of time.

M1 Abrams - soldiers roll out to range in coordination exercise


Honeywell AGT1500 gas turbine engines power the M1 Abrams. Compared to reciprocating engines, gas turbine engines have a better power-to-weight ratio meaning they deliver more power with less weight. At one point in the early 1970s, engineers even converted the AGT1500 into a flight-weight turboshaft for helicopters called the PLT27, which was ultimately scrapped. The Lycoming Turbine Engine Division designed and produced the AGT1500 at the Stratford Army Engine Plant. After the Stratford Plant shut down, production shifted to Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Alabama, in 1995.

M1 Abrams- soldiers efuel an M1 Abrams tank during a simulated jump forward area refueling point (FARP)


M1 Abrams - soldiers roll out to range in coordination exercise

Abigail Meyer

The 1500 HP gas turbine engine delivers power to a six-speed automatic hydrokinetic transmission. With the engine, M1 Abrams can push up to 42-45 mph on-road and 30mph over rough terrain. It can also accelerate from 0 to 20 miles per hour in 7.2 seconds. That is pretty fast for 60+ ton machines. Its quick speed, along with its weight, comes with a hefty price. M1 Abrams burns a lot of fuel, getting less than a mile per gallon.

M1 Abrams - tank unloaded at t Stewart Air National Guard Base


M1 Abrams- soldiers efuel an M1 Abrams tank during a simulated jump forward area refueling point (FARP)

Sgt. Gregory Summers, U.S. Army

One of the lesser-known facts about M1 Abrams is that they are multifuel-capable, making it possible to be powered by kerosene, diesel, and any grade of motor gasoline or jet fuel. We know the Army refuels tanks at bases or fuel stops, but could you imagine someone pulling up at a gas station driving one of these? With over 500 gallons, how long would that take, haha? When refueled with the military equipment, a single tank takes about 10 minutes, and a platoon of four tanks takes 30 minutes.

M1 Abrams - Naval Literage System Causeway ferry carries an M1A1 Abrams tank


M1 Abrams - tank unloaded at t Stewart Air National Guard Base

Staff Sgt. Julio Olivencia Jr, U.S. Air Force

Big tanks require big transport. M1 Abrams can be transported by air using a C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster III. The C-5 Galaxy is capable of carrying two M1 Abrams main battle tanks or a single Abrams tank along with two M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicles. The C-17 Globemaster III, on the other hand, is cable of carrying just over 82 tons. A C-17 can hold only one M1 Abrams tank.

M1 Abrams - M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter delivered vehicles


M1 Abrams - Naval Literage System Causeway ferry carries an M1A1 Abrams tank

Lieutenant Junior Grade Robert L Kunzig, U.S. Navy

On the water, Marines typically transport M1 Abrams using combat ships such as a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. They hold five M1 Abrams battle tanks, up to 25 AAVs, eight M198 howitzers, 68 trucks, and up to 12 other support vehicles. The tanks are then taken to shore using a Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) with one tank per landing craft. The LCAC limit is a 60-ton payload or 75 tons in an overload condition, which they use to move M1 Abrams tanks.

M1 Abrams-soldiers stabilize battle tank while unloading equipment for Exercise Bright Star 2017 in Alexandria, Egypt


M1 Abrams - M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter delivered vehicles

Staff Sgt. Lorene Mauro, U.S. Army National Guard

As mentioned earlier, the M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) is a truck that can transport M1 Abrams. It can travel on highways, roads, and go cross-country. The HET is also fitted to hold the tank’s crew members. The Oshkosh Truck Cooperation built the M1070 after the Army requested a truck that could transport M1 Abrams Tanks. Production began in July 1992 for 1044 units with an option for 522 additional units. We should state, the M1000 trailer, developed by Southwest Mobile Systems after U.S. Army issued a requirement for moving M1 and M1A1 MBTs, carries the M1 Abrams. The M1000 has 40 wheels across axle lines.

M1 Abrams - Sgt. Levan Chitishvili guides a freshly coated green M1A2 tank


M1 Abrams-soldiers stabilize battle tank while unloading equipment for Exercise Bright Star 2017 in Alexandria, Egypt

Thomas Gagnier, U.S. Department of Defense

Both Chrysler Defense and General Motors built prototypes of the XM1 Abrams by 1976. After extensive trials, Chrysler’s tank was selected for development by the U.S. Army as the M1. One fundamental difference in the vehicles was Chrysler Defense included a turbine-powered design while General Motors featured a traditional diesel engine. The Diesel design proved to have a few issues. The two tanks, as well as Leopard 2 “2K,” faced each other in testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1976.

M1 Abrams- An Abrams tank turret moves through the manufacturing stages at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center


M1 Abrams - Sgt. Levan Chitishvili guides a freshly coated green M1A2 tank

Capt. Scott Walters, U.S. Army

The prototypes and early production of the M1 Abrams had a flat forest green paint scheme. M1A1 coming NATO factories have three-color camouflage paint jobs with Chemical Agent Resistant Coating: Black/Med-Green/Dark-Brown. During Operation Desert Storm (1990-1991), M1s and M1A1s received a desert tan paint scheme. Some of these tanks were repainted to match the NATO selected colors after the conflict. M1A2s built for the Middle Eastern countries also received a desert tan paint job. Looking at replacement parts, they have olive green paint. As a result, you may spot a tank with a mixture of green and tan parts.

M1 Abrams- soldiers participate in a live-fire drill during Combined Resolve X in Grafenwoehr, Germany


M1 Abrams- An Abrams tank turret moves through the manufacturing stages at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center

Misha King

Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) – also called Lima Army Tank Plant – is located in Lima, Ohio. They offer an industrial facility for the Department of Defense. The facility is capable of building, fixing, and refurbishing heavy and light armored combat vehicles. They currently manufacture M1 Abrams Family of Vehicle for the U.S. and allied nations. They offer 1.6 million square feet of manufacturing floor space. The building alone takes up 1.1 million square feet.

M1 Abrams- U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Thomas Monahan holds an M1028 canister tank round aboard the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship


M1 Abrams- soldiers participate in a live-fire drill during Combined Resolve X in Grafenwoehr, Germany

Spc. Dustin Biven, U.S. Army

M1 Abrams was the first manufactured vehicle to include Chobham armor. Chobham armor was initially developed by the British tank research center on Chobham Common, Surrey, and consists of ceramic tiles sheathed in a metal framework and open space. Along with M1 Abrams tanks, Challenger 1 & Challenger 2 tanks use the armor. The framework that binds the ceramic tiles is manufactured in large blocks. This shape gives the tanks a unique angled appearance. The form is most noticeable with the turrets.

M1 Abrams - A M2 Bradley fighting vehicle and a group of M1 Abrams tanks secure an area during a Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr Training Area


M1 Abrams- U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Thomas Monahan holds an M1028 canister tank round aboard the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship

Cpl. Austin Livingston, U.S. Marine Corps

We mentioned earlier that M1A1 production began incorporating armor featuring depleted uranium (DU). This practice started in October 1988. While the armor considerably increased the weight to the tank, it also amplified efficiency against kinetic energy rounds. Existing M1A1 were upgraded, while all M1A2 tanks included the armor from their outset. Production unified DU models into Chobham armor as part of the plating on the front of the hull of the M1 Abrams tank as well as the turret’s front.

1 Abrams - soldier guides an M1A2 Tank commander to a maintenance area


M1 Abrams - A M2 Bradley fighting vehicle and a group of M1 Abrams tanks secure an area during a Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration at Grafenwoehr Training Area

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

When M1 Abrams entered service in the 1980s, they worked in conjunction with the United States military’s M60A3s as well as other NATO tanks for Cold War exercises aimed at counteracting Soviet forces. The early versions of M1 Abrams tanks came equipped with the M68A1 gun. The reasons for the utilization of these weapons was both economic and practical. The U.S. Army’s previous main battle tank, the M60 Patton, used M68E1. The guns could share the same bullets between tanks. The M681A1 could also fire the M900 APFSDS depleted uranium rounds, a vast improvement between the M774.

M1 Abrams - tanks and helicopter secure an area during a combined arms live fire exercise


1 Abrams - soldier guides an M1A2 Tank commander to a maintenance area

Sgt. Ange Desinor, U.S. Army

The M1A2 was permitted for production in 1990. It improved the standard M1A1 design to take advantage of newer technology. For instance, the M1A2’s interiors were a drastic departure from the M1A1 so that it could include improvements such as an onboard Position/Navigation (POSNAV) system. M1A2s also received a weapon station, independent thermal view, a full set of controls plus displays connected by a digital data bus. Along with these items, the M1A2 got a System Enhancement Package (SEP), which included things like digital maps, an upgraded cooling system, a Linux communication system for commanders, and Force XXI Battle Command Brigade. Talk about taking something great and making it better.


M1 Abrams - tanks and helicopter secure an area during a combined arms live fire exercise

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

In 1980, the M1 Abrams entered U.S. Army service, although it didn’t see combat for another 11 years until the Persian Gulf War. In 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. sent 1,848 M1A1s to Saudi Arabia to help Kuwait liberate. They proved effective against the T-55, T-62 and T-72 tanks (carryover vehicles from the USSR). The M1A1 had night vision and an 8,200 ft range to destroy other tanks, which proved vital in combat. M1 Abrams would once again see action on the battlefield with the Iraq War beginning in 2003.


James Clark, from the website “Task & Purpose,” interviewed Army Capt. Aaron Doft about his work as a Tank Commander. Doft said that daily mission length varies considerably. Sometimes missions could be as short as four hours. In these scenarios, it’s often affirming their presence or discouraging enemies from proceeding to commit harmful action to allied forces or Americans. He says the longest mission that he participated in was 36 hours in the tanks.


Clark asked Doft if he ever got irritated in his tank with three other guys, and how did he keep the right attitude? Doft said that everyone knows their place on the crew and where they sit on the hierarchy. He mentioned that people have their own personality and come in with different experiences. Also, participants may be from different parts of the country and outside the country. Doft says it is essential to learn how to communicate. The results will increase cooperation and reduce issues. Communication will help someone be an effective leader and to get along with everyone.


When asked in the interview, “what that’s like, 36 hours in a tank?” Doft replied that the particular mission was a battalion-wider operation. He goes on to say that difficulties with bodily functions “come in to play.” He and his crew carried more than enough water and electrolyte drinks for that particular mission. Whenever someone had to use the restroom, they’d use empty containers for micturition and MRE bags for defecation. When someone had to expel, it led to a lot of jokes at the culprit’s expense, such as guessing what they ate that day. Doft said, along with having three men in the tank with bags of feces, the temperatures rose to 150 degrees intensifying the smell. He joshed the reporter and said it was a good time.


Clark asked Doft if tankers had any unit rituals or something they’d only do. Doft says they’d take a new platoon leader or new company commander’s cover and put it in the main gun. During the main gun qualification on the tank range, the tank commander says, “fire.” The hat gets vaporized in the gun tube, and everyone says, “He sent his own cover, downrange.” Another ritual is duct tapping new arrivals to the main gun tube. They elevate them and spin them until they vomit or laugh too much. Doft says unlike other infantry, tankers have fun.


For the videogame, “War Thunder,” the team interviewed a former M1A1 officer who enjoys the game. Choosing to stay anonymous, they published his story with his username Conte_Baracca. When discussing ammunition, he mentioned that they’d often have to use ammo from the semi-ready rack. He said that the Abrams tank had several ready racks that could store 16 and 18 rounds. When they were running low, the crew would have to use a semi-ready rack to restock the ammo. Conte_Baracco goes on to say it was a pain to get access. For example, part of the process involved pulling a pin on the hydraulic piston from the loader’s door and sliding it around by hand to move the ammo from the semi-rack. He says that it took several minutes to relocate a single round and that the developer’s video game made it much easier than the reality.


When asked about common failures of the M1 Abrams tanks, Conte_Barracca responded with “The suspension and track. End of story”. He says that these two items were “overwhelmingly” the most common problem in combat operations. In combat, they used freshly rebuilt tanks and had them rotate in and out after 1000 hours of operation. The U.S. Army did this, so the more complicated pieces of tank remained dependable, though they’d occasionally run into issues. Conte_Barracca says when you spot a tank, you will always notice spare track pieces and spare road wheels because they have the highest probability of breaking.


Conte_Barracca says that the M1 was built from the “ground up to be repairable in the field.” He says that almost every part could be examined, including the ability to remove the subsystem and rear deck. If you needed to pull out the engine/transmission assembly, you could use an M88 recovery vehicle, which had a crane. Conte_Barracca says it was pretty easy to do this by just removing inputs and outputs by releasing the connections. He goes on to say the tank “was a marvel of engineering, to be honest.”

M1 Abrams - tanks scan the training area for targets during a combined arms live fire exercise


The U.S. Army has plans to continue the M1, though at one point, they thought about replacing it with the Future Combat Systems XM1202 Mounted Combat Systems, but DoD’s budget was cut ending development and funding for the program. As mentioned previously, the M1A3 was also early in it was design period in 2009. Prototypes were planned to begin testing in 2014 and combat in 2017. Instead, a new version of the M1A2 SEP v4 is scheduled to start testing in 2021. As of 2020, the M1A2 service will remain in service beyond 2050.

M1 Abrams- C-5M Super Galaxy to join the fleet arrives at Travis Air Force Base


M1 Abrams - tanks scan the training area for targets during a combined arms live fire exercise

Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army

There is nothing worse than misidentifying your fellow soldier. That is what happened during operation Desert Storm. After a string of friendly fire incidents involving M1A1 tanks (seven destroyed) during the conflict, the tanks, and other U.S. vehicles were outfitted with Combat Identification Panels. They were installed on the rear of the sides of the turret. The panels came prepared with a four-cornered ‘box’ image on the side or front of the turret. The purpose of these panels was to decrease friendly fire, and we can thankfully say they’ve been successful. We think these are crucial during combat.

M1 Abrams - U.S. Marines drive in an M1 assault breacher vehicle


M1 Abrams- C-5M Super Galaxy to join the fleet arrives at Travis Air Force Base

Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford, U.S. Air Force

After the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, 18 tanks were transported from Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, to Somalia using a C-5 Galaxy aircraft. This transport marks the first time an M1 Abrams was airlifted to a battlefield. Altogether, the carriers lifted 3,000 short tons of cargo. Only wide-bodied C-5s were used so they could hold the weighty tanks. The C-141 Starlifter lifted other parts of the load, but the U.S. Air Force limited the amount of weight it could carry to 55,000 pounds after the wings began to crack. The C-5 and C-141 flights were nonstop minus four aerial refuelings.

M1 Abrams - U.S. Army soldiers breach an obstacle in a M104 Wolverine


M1 Abrams - U.S. Marines drive in an M1 assault breacher vehicle

Cpl. Joseph Prado, U.S. Marine Corps

M1 Abrams can be adapted to work in several areas, such as mine-clearing operations. For instance, it is possible to add a mine roller and mine plow to the vehicle. This variant is called an M1 Panther II. Other specialized vehicles include M104 Wolverine, which comes equipped with a Heavy Assault Bridge. There is also the M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV), a mine and explosive clearing vehicle built off an M1-Abrams chassis and the M1074 Joint Assault Bridge (JAB) which is based on M1A1 Abrams and has deployable bridge capabilities.

M1 Abrams-crewman conduct inventories on their newly received M1A1 Abrams tanks


M1 Abrams - U.S. Army soldiers breach an obstacle in a M104 Wolverine

Spc. Nathan Franco, U.S. Army

The M1A2 System Enhancement Package (SEP) was the foundation for the M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge. The vehicle was created to deliver deployable bridge capability for units in the military. The first production models were provided in 2003. The U.S. Army, however, contracted DRS Technologies, Inc. to build a new Joint Assault Bridge (JAB) system in 2016. The bridge type for this system is a Military Load Class 95 Scissor Bridge (MLC95). Using the Bridge Launcher Mechanism (BLM) designed by Israeli Military Industries along with Leonardo DRS, a computer compiles the bridge and launches it. You operate the BLM through a basic push-button system. Within 3 minutes, the MLC95 bridge can span a gap crossing of 11 meters (about 36 feet).

M1 Abrams - M1A1 Abrams tanks sit parked at a secured compound


M1 Abrams-crewman conduct inventories on their newly received M1A1 Abrams tanks

Spc. Robert Winns, U.S. Army

Modernization programs, such as Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK), remain in place constantly, so M1 Abrams stay pertinent on contemporary battlegrounds. The M1 Abrams tank received armor upgrades and a gun shield with TUSK, which added defense in the rear and side. The purpose was to improve the M1 Abram’s fighting ability in urban environments. The kits are field-installable, which means the vehicles do not have to be recalled to a maintenance depot.


M1 Abrams - M1A1 Abrams tanks sit parked at a secured compound

Staff Sgt. Edward Daileg, U.S. Army

One of the best facts about M1 Abrams is its sheer volume of production. Approximately 10,288 variations of M1 Abrams have been manufactured as of 2018. The United States Army and United States Marine Corps have the most M1 Abrams in the world with around 8,100 M1, M1A1, and M1A2 tanks combined. That is a lot of tanks. In case you are curious, in cooperation with the U.S., the Egyptian Army has the second most M1A1s with 1,360 assembled minus the uranium layers. Out of the seven-country operators, the Australian Army has the least amount with 59 M1A1s.