M1 Abrams

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General Characteristics
Length: 7.92 m (26 ft)
Max Length: 9.77 m (32.04 ft)
Width: 3.64 m (12 ft)
Height: 2.43 m (8 ft)
Weight: 69.5 tons (63.0 tonnes)
Speed: 72 km/h (45 mph) road
48 km/h (30 mph) off-road
Range: M1: 498 km (310 mi)

M1A1: 465 km (288 mi)
M1A2: 391 km (243 mi)

M1: 105 mm gun
M1A1 and M1A2:
120 mm smoothbore gun
one M2 .50 BMG (12.7 mm) MG
and two M240 7.62 mm MG
1 pintle, 1 co-axial
Power plant: 1119 kW (1500 hp)
gas turbine
Crew: 4 (driver, gunner, loader, commander)

The M1 Abrams main battle tank is the principal combat tank of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, with three main versions being deployed starting in 1980: the M1, M1A1, and M1A2. The latest versions of the M1A2 have a new armor and electronics package. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and commander of the Army's 37th Armored Battalion. The M1 Abrams replaced the M60 Patton in US service.

Production history

The M1 Abrams was designed by Chrysler Defense (In 1982, General Dynamics Land Systems Division purchased Chrysler Defense Division) and is currently produced by General Dynamics Corporation and first entered US Army service in 1980. An improved version of the M1, the M1A1, was introduced in 1985. The M1A1 has the L44 120 mm smoothbore gun developed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany for the Leopard 2, improved armor, and an NBC protection system. The M1A2 is a further improvement of the M1A1 with a commander's thermal viewer and weapon station, position navigation equipment, digital data bus and a radio interface unit.

Further upgrades include depleted uranium armor for all variants, a system overhaul that returns all A1's to zero hours (M1A1 AIM), a digital enhancement package for the A1 (M1A1D), a commonality program to standardize parts between the US Army and the Marine Corps (M1A1HC), and an electronic upgrade for the A2 (M1A2 SEP).

In this article, "Abrams" is used to refer to all variants of the tank, while the specific variants are referred to as the M1, M1IP, M1A1, and M1A2.

File:Pdp11,70 640x507.jpg
Technicians using BRL-CAD to develop an M1 prototype.

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.

Export variants, with the export armor package and different options (such as multi-fuel diesel engines) of the M1 Abrams are also used by the defence forces of:

Combat history

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 degraded Russian T-72s which lack night vision and any modern range finders and locally-produced copies (Asad Babil tank). Only 18 M1A1s were taken out of service due to battle damage and none of these losses resulted in crew casualties. The M1A1 was capable of making kills at ranges in excess of 4000 m.

Further combat was seen during 2003 when US forces invaded Iraq and deposed the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The campaign saw very similar performance from the tank with no Abrams crew member being lost to hostile fire during the battle in Iraq. However, on October 29, 2003, two soldiers were killed and a third wounded when their tank was disabled by an anti-tank mine, which may have been combined with other explosives to increase its effect. This marked the first time deaths resulted from a hostile-fire assault on the M1 tank.

On November 27, 2004 an Abrams tank was completely destroyed and its driver killed from shrapnel wounds when an extremely powerful improvised explosive device consisting of three L15 155 mm shells with a total explosive weight of 34.5 kg detonated next to the tank. The other three crew members were able to escape, a testament to the armor of the M1A2.

During the major combat operations in Iraq, Abrams crew members were lost when one tank with the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division, and US Marine Corps troops, drove onto a bridge. The bridge failed, dropping the tank into the Euphrates River, where one soldier drowned.

No Abrams tank has ever been destroyed as a result of fire from an enemy tank, though a number have been disabled in ambushes employing short-range antitank rockets like the Russian RPG-7. Also, during the Operation Desert Storm four Abrams were disabled in a friendly fire incident by Hellfire missiles fired from AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.


Abrams at night

The Abrams is protected by a type of composite armor (derived from the British Chobham armour) formed by multiple layers of steel and ceramics. It may also be fitted with reactive armor if needed; however, this modification has never actually been done. Fuel and ammunition are in armored compartments to protect the crew and reduce the risk of cooking off if the tank is damaged. Protection against spalling is provided by a kevlar liner. Beginning in 1988, M1A1 tanks received improved armor packages that incorporated depleted uranium reinforcing rods in their armor at the front of the turret and the front of the hull. Armor thus reinforced offers significantly better resistance towards all types of anti-tank weaponry, but at the expense of adding considerable weight to the tank. The first M1A1 tanks to receive this upgrade were tanks stationed in Germany, since they were the first line of defense against the Soviet Union. US tankers participated in Operation Desert Storm received an emergency program to upgrade their tanks with depleted uranium armor immediately before the onset of the campaign. The newer M1A2 tanks uniformly incorporate depleted uranium armor, and the majority of the M1A1 tanks in active service have been upgraded to this standard as well.


Main armament

M68A1 rifled gun

The main armament of the original model M1 was the M68A1 105 mm rifled tank gun firing a variety of APFSDS, HEAT, and high explosive rounds (tanks in U.S. service carried no high explosive rounds, only APFSDS, APFSDSDU, HEAT, white phosphorus smoke, and a highly efficient and lethal anti-personnel flechette round).

M256 smoothbore gun

The main armament of the M1A1 and M1A2 is the M256 120 mm smoothbore gun, designed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany and manufactured under license in the US by General Dynamics Land Systems Division in their plant in Lima, Ohio. It fires depleted uranium armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding-sabot long-rod penetrator (APFSDS) rounds like the M829A3 and high explosive anti-tank HEAT shaped charge rounds like M830, the latest versions of which (M830A1) incorporate a sophisticated multi-mode electronic sensing fuze which allow them to be used effectively against both armored vehicles and personnel, or even (at least in theory) low-flying aircraft.

The new M1028 120 mm anti-personnel canister cartridge has been brought into service early for use in the 2003 occupation of Iraq. It contains 1,150 ten-millimetre tungsten shot projectiles which spread from the muzzle to produce a shotgun effect lethal out to 500 m. 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 cover-by-fire.

In addition to this the new MRM-KE (Mid-Range-Munition), otherwise known as X-Rod, is also in developement. Essentially a cannon fired guided round, it has a range of roughly 12km, and uses a KE warhead which is rocket assisted in its final phase of flight.

Secondary armament

M1A1 with mine plow from 1995 or earlier

The Abrams tank has three machine guns:

  1. A .50 cal (12.7 mm) M2 machine gun in front of the commander's hatch. On the M1,M1IP and M1A1, this gun is on a powered mount and can be fired using a 3× magnification sight, while the vehicle is buttoned up. On the M1A2, M1A2SEP, the M2 is on a flex mount.
  2. A 7.62 mm M240 machine gun in front of the loader's hatch on a skate mount.
  3. A 7.62 mm M240 machine gun in a coaxial mount. The coaxial MG is aimed and fired with the computer fire control system.

The turret is fitted with two six-barreled smoke grenade launchers. These can create a thick smoke that blocks both vision and thermal imaging. The engine is also equiped with a smoke generator.


The Abrams is equipped with a fire control computer that uses data from a variety of sources, including the Gunner's Primary Sight or "GPS" (thermal or daylight), a laser rangefinder, a wind sensor, a cant sensor, and data on the ammunition type, and computes a firing solution. Either the commander or gunner can fire the main gun.


An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank conducts an area reconnaissance near Balad, Iraq

The M1 Abrams is powered by a 1500 hp (1119 kW) Honeywell AGT1500 (originally made by Lycoming) gas turbine, and a 4-forward/2-reverse speed transmission, giving it a governed top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) on roads, 30 mph (48 km/h) cross-country. With the engine governor removed, speeds of around 60 mph (100 km/h) are possible on an improved surface; however, damage to the drivetrain (especially to the tracks) can occur at speeds above 45 mph. The tank can be fueled diesel fuel, kerosene, JP-4, any grade of MOGAS (motor gasoline), or JP-8 jet fuel; the U.S. Army uses diesel fuel in order to simplify logistics.

The Abrams can be carried by the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III. The limited capacity (one combat-ready tank or two transport-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. Tanks shipped in the transport-ready configuration require depot-level maintenance to install a number of sections of armor, and need to be fueled and loaded with ammunition. Tanks shipped in the combat-ready configuration can enter combat immediately. Template:Clr

Tank Urban Survival Kit for M1A2

The Tank Urban Survival Kit, or TUSK, is a series of improvements to the M1A2 Abrams intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments. Historically, urban and other close battlefields have been the worst place for tanks to fight -- a tank's front armor is much stronger than that on the sides, top, or rear, and 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 get sufficient elevation to hit the top armor square on.

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 gun shield and a thermal sight system are added to the loader's top-mounted 7.62 mm machine gun, and the mount for commander's .50-caliber heavy machine gun is modified to allow the weapon to be operated from within the turret with the hatch closed (the original M1 and M1A1 had this capability, but it was lost on the M1A2 due to the reconfiguration of several turret systems). 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.


  • M1 Original version Production started in 1980 and continued to 1985
    • M1 IP (IPM1) Produced briefly in 1985 before production shifted to the M1A1
    • M1A1Production started in 1986 and continued to 1992. Gun upgraded to M256 120mm gun
      • M1A1AIM Production overhall of existing inventory
      • M1A1D Digital upgrade replacing control systems to M1A1 [1]
    • M1A2 Production began in 1992.
      • M1A2SEP
  • M1 Grizzly Engineer Vehicle [2]
  • M1 Panther II Remote controlled mine clearing vehicle [3]
  • M104 Wolverine Heavy assault bridge [4]

Specifications of variants

Model M1 IPM1 M1A1 M1A2 M1A2 SEP
Length 32.04 ft (9.77 m) 32.04 ft (9.77 m) 32.04 ft (9.77 m) 32.04 ft (9.77 m) 32.04 ft (9.77 m)
Width 12 ft (3.66 m) 12 ft (3.66 m) 12 ft (3.66 m) 12 ft (3.66 m) 12 ft (3.66 m)
Height 7.79 ft (2.37 m) 7.79 ft (2.37 m) 8.0 ft (2.44 m) 8.0 ft (2.44 m) 8.0 ft (2.44 m)
Top speed 45 mph (72 km/h) 45 mph (72 km/h) 41.5 mph (67 km/h) 41.5 mph (67 km/h) 42 mph (68 km/h)
Weight 61.4 short tons (55.7 tonnes) 62.8 short tons (57.0 tonnes) 67.6 short tons (61.3 tonnes) 68.4 short tons (62.1 tonnes) 69.5 short tons (63.0 tonnes)
Main armament 105 mm 105 mm 120 mm 120 mm 120 mm
Crew 4 4 4 4 4

See also


External links

Template:Modern tanks Template:General Dynamics de:M1 Abrams fr:Char M1 Abrams he:אברהמס (טנק) nl:M-1 Abrams ja:M1エイブラムス no:M1 Abrams pl:M1 Abrams