M1A1 Abrams Tank

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See Also:
M1 Abrams M1A1 M1A2
M1A1 Abrams Tank
M1A2 Abrams Tank
M1A1 D Abrams Tank
M1 Abrams Tank Variants
M1 A1 Abrams Tank Operations
M1 A1 A2 Abrams Career
Army General Abrams
M1 Abrams TUSK
M1A2 Abrams SEP

See Also:
Tank history WW1 WW2
List of tanks WW1, WW2, Modern
US Army List of Tanks WW2 M4_Sherman
US Tank Production World War 2
WW2 German Tank Production Panzer 3 III
Panzer 4 IV Pz4
Tiger 1
King Tiger 2
Maus (Tank) - Panzer VIII WW2 world largest tank
Matilda Infantry Tank
T-34 T34 Soviet medium tank IS-2_Soviet_Tank
T-35 Soviet Heavy Tank,
T-55 Tank,
T-62 Soviet Medium Tank,
T80 Main Battle Tank,
T-90 Main Battle Tank
T-72 Tank
M60 Patton
M1 Abrams M1A1 M1A2

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M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank

An improved version of the M1, the M1A1, was introduced in 1985. The M1A1 has the M256 120 mm smoothbore cannon developed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany for the Leopard 2, improved armor, and an NBC protection system.

Over 8,800 M1 and M1A1 tanks have been produced at a cost of $2,350,000-4,300,000 per unit, depending on the variant.

The M1A1 is an improved version of the M1 Main Battle Tank (MBT). It includes a 120mm smoothbore main gun, an NBC overpressure protection system, and an improved armor package. This tank significantly increases the capabilities of the Fleet Marine Forces across the full spectrum of conflict in the near and midterm. The M1A1 Tank, in addition to the improved armor, 120mm smoothbore gun and the NBC overpressure system, has a Deep Water Fording Kit (DWFK), a Position Location Reporting Systems (PLRS), enhanced ship tiedowns, Digital Electronic Control Unit (DECU) (which allows significant fuel savings),and Battlefield Override.

The main weapon of the M1A1 is the M256 120mm smoothbore cannon, designed by the Rheinmetall Corporation of Germany. Engagement ranges approaching 4000 meters were successfully demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm. The primary armor-defeating ammunition of this weapon is the armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding sabot (APDS-FS) round, which features a depleted uranium penetrators. Depleted uranium has density two and a half times greater than steel and provides high penetration characteristics. Several other types of ammunition are available as well. It is reliable, deadly accurate and has a "hit/kill ratio" that equals or surpasses any main battle tank armament in the world.

As with virtually every tank every fielded by the US, the familiar .50 caliber Browning M2 Heavy Barrel machine gun - the "Ma Duce" - is located in a powered mount at the Commander's station and is equipped with a x3 magnification sight. The Loader is provided with a 7.62mm M240 machine gun, and another M240 is mounted in-line with the main gun of the tank ("coaxially"). It is in a fixed mount and is aimed with the main gun to suppress enemy ground troops.

The layout of the Abrams follows classic tank design and accommodates a crew of four: Commander, Gunner, Loader and Driver. The Commander and Gunner are seated on the right side of the turret. The Loader is seated on the left side of the turret, and the Driver is seated at the center front of the hull.

The Commander's station is equipped with six periscopes which provide all round 360 degree view. The Independent Thermal Viewer (ITV) from Texas Instruments provides him with independent, stabilized day and night vision with a 360 degree view, automatic sector scanning, automatic target cueing of the Gunner's sight with no need for verbal communication, and a complete back-up fire control system - the Commander is capable of firing the main gun independent of the Gunner.

The Gunner's Primary Sight-Line of Sight (GPS-LOS), was developed by the Electro-Optical Systems Division of Hughes Aircraft Company. The night vision Thermal Imaging System (TIS), also from Hughes, creates an image based on the differences of heat radiated by objects in the field of view. The thermal image is displayed in the eyepiece of the Gunner's sight together with the range measurement to within 10 meters of accuracy, from a Hughes laser range finder, which is integrated into all of the fire control systems. The Abrams also has an onboard digital fire control computer. Range data from the laser rangefinder is transferred directly to the fire control computer, which automatically calculates the fire control solution. The data includes 1) the lead angle measurement, 2) the bend of the gun measured by the muzzle reference system of the main armament, 3) wind velocity measurement from a wind sensor on the roof of the turret and 4) the data from a pendulum static cant sensor located at the center of the turret roof. The Gunner or Commander manually inputs the data on the ammunition type and temperature, and the barometric pressure and the weapon is prepared for engagement.

The Loader's station is located on the left side of the turret and has no special fire control equipment.

The Driver's station is located at the center front of the hull. The Driver is in a semi-reclined position when his hatch is closed, as it must be whenever the vehicle is in operation. His station is equipped with a standard array of gages and monitors reflecting the condition of vehicle fluid levels, batteries and electrical equipment. The Driver has either three observation periscopes or two periscopes on either side and a central image intensifying ("Starlight") periscope for night vision. The periscopes provide 120 degrees field of view. The Driver's night vision equipment enables the tank to maneuver at normal daytime driving speeds in darkness and in poor visibility conditions such as in the dust and smoke encountered on the battlefield.

The turret is fitted with two six-barreled M250 smoke grenade launchers, one on each side of the main gun. The standard smoke grenade contains a phosphors compound that masks thermal signature of the vehicle to the enemy. A smoke screen can also be laid by an engine operated system.

An improvement program will eventually upgrade all M1A1 tanks with steel encased depleted uranium armor, which has a density at least two-and-a-half times greater than steel. The depleted uranium armor will raise the total weight of the Abrams tank to 65 tons, but offers vastly improved protection in the bargain.

The stowage for the main armament ammunition is in armored ammunition boxes behind sliding armor doors. Armor bulkheads separate the crew compartment from the fuel tanks. The tank is equipped with an automatic Halon fire extinguishing system. This system automatically activates within 2 milliseconds of either a flash or a fire within the various compartments of the vehicle. The top panels of the tank are designed to blow outwards in the event of penetration by a HEAT projectile.

Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare protection is provided by an overpressure clean-air conditioning air system, a radiological warning system, and a chemical agent detector. The crew are individually equipped with protective suits and masks.

The Marine Corps has fielded the M1A1 Common Tank to replace the aging M60A1 Rise/Passive tank. The M60 has reached the end of its service life and lacks the capability to survive and to defeat the threats expected to be encountered on the modern battlefield. During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, the Marine Corps borrowed 60 M1A1s (called the M1A1 Heavy Armor) from the US Army. There were also 16 Marine Corps M1A1 Tanks delivered on an accelerated schedule for employment during the operation. This total of 76 M1A1 tanks was employed by 2d Tank Battalion and elements of 4th Tank Battalion. The M1A1 tanks saw immediate action during the I Marine Expeditionary Force (IMEF) drive through the burning Kuwaiti oil fields. All loaned tanks were returned to the US Army after Desert Storm.

Due to unique Marine Corps amphibious requirements, and the need for both supportability and interoperability between the Marine Corps and the US Army, the two services agreed to jointly produce the M1A1 Main Battle Tank. The M1A1 MBT has the capability to conduct operations ashore. It is compatible with all US Navy amphibious ships and craft (to include the LCAC) and Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS). The USMC completed fielding of all tanks, to include active, reserve, MPS, and depot maintenance float (DMF) during FY 96.

In 1995 the 26th MEU became the first amphibiously deployed unit to carry the M1A1. This added some complication to the logistics of the unit due to the tank's weight. Topping the scales at over 68 tons the vehicle requires special care during amphibious operations. One tank can be carried at a time on an Air Cushioned Landing Craft (LCAC), two on a Landing Craft Utility (LCU), but only during fairly calm seas. For operations with the Marine Corps, tanks have been equipped with special fording systems. These modifications include extended air intake and exhaust tubes that allow the vehicles to cross rivers and shallow waters such as the surf zones that Marines operate in.

The M1A1 Abrams Tank Firepower Enhancement Program (FEP), a Marine Corps Systems Command initiative, is intended to increase the all weather, day and night target acquisition and engagement ranges and provide a far target location capability for the M1A1 Tank. The FEP system will include a scope of work that entails a suite of upgrades for the M1A1 Tank. These upgrades include a second-generation thermal sight and a north finding/target locating capability. The system will increase the tank crew's ability to detect, recognize, identify and accurately locate targets.

Primary armament

M256 smoothbore gun

The main armament of the M1A1 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 M829A2 and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) shaped charge rounds such as the M830, the latest version of which (M830A2) incorporates a sophisticated multi-mode electronic sensing fuse which allows it 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 aftermath of the 2003 invasion 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 Kinetic Energy) is also in development. Essentially a cannon-fired guided round, it has a range of roughly 12 km and uses a KE warhead which is rocket assisted in its final phase of flight.

Secondary armament

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 known as the CWS, while the vehicle is buttoned up. On the M1A2, M1A2SEP, the M2 is on a flex mount. With the forthcoming TUSK addon kit the M2, or a Mk 19 grenade launcher, can be mounted on the CROWS remote weapons platform. CROWS is similar to the RWS [(Remote Weapons System)] used on the Stryker family of vehicles.
2. A 7.62 mm (.30 caliber) M240C machine gun in front of the loader's hatch on a skate mount.
3. A 7.62 mm M240C machine gun in a coaxial mount. The coaxial MG is aimed and fired with the computer fire control system used for the main gun.

The turret is fitted with two six-barreled smoke grenade launchers. These can create a thick smoke that blocks both vision and thermal imaging, and can also be armed with chaff. The engine is also equipped with a smoke generator that is triggered by the driver.

M1A1 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 defense forces of:

* Australia (59 M1A1 AIM, to enter service in 2007).
* Egypt (777 M1A1)
* Saudi Arabia (315 M1A2)
* Kuwait (218 M1A2)
* Also tested but not adopted by Sweden, Greece and a number of other nations.

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 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 only tank-casualties as result of enemy fire was a tank-leader who was outside his tank during the explosion of a T-72. The M1A1 was capable of making kills at ranges in excess of 4000 m. In friendly fire incidents the front armor and side turret armor survived direct APFSDS hits from other M1A1s.

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.

During the major combat operations in Iraq, Abrams crew members were lost when one tank of 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 Marine drowned.

On April 5, 2003 a disabled and abandoned M1A1 was destroyed in Baghdad, it took: One Thermite grenade, one DU sabot round, and two Maverick missiles, of the later type, with tandem double warhead.

No Abrams tank has ever been destroyed as a result of fire from an enemy tank, but there is at least one account, reported in the Gulf War's US Official Assessment, of an Abrams being damaged by three conventional kinetic energy penetrators from a T-72. The damage was enough to send the tank to a maintenance depot (see the article about the Iraqi T-72s for photos and details). Also during Operation Desert Storm, four Abrams were disabled in a suspected friendly fire incident by Hellfire missiles fired from AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. A number of them were disabled by Iraqi infantrymen in ambushes employing short-range antitank rockets, such as the Russian RPG-7, during the 2003 invasion. Another one was put out of action when heavy machine gun rounds struck fuel stowed in an external rack, starting a fire that spread to the engine.

Type: Main battle tank
Place of origin: United States
Weight: 63.0 tonnes (69.5 short tons)
Length: 7.92 m (26 ft)
Width: 3.64 m (12 ft)
Height: 2.43 m (8 ft)
Crew: 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
Armour: Chobham,
Primary armament: 120 mm M256 Smooth Bore Tank Gun
Secondary armament: 1 .50 (12.7 mm) M2 BMG machine gun,
2 M240 7.62 mm machine guns (1 pintle, 1 coaxial)
Engine: AGT-1500 turbine engine,
Renk HSWL 354 transmission
1500 hp (1119 kW)
Power/weight: 24 hp/tonne
Suspension: torsion bar
Operational range: 465 km (288 mi)
Speed: Road: 72 km/h (45 mph)
Off-road: 48 km/h (30 mph)

Standard Armor

The Abrams is protected by Chobham armour, a type of composite armor formed by multiple layers of steel and ceramics. It may also be fitted with reactive armor if needed (as in the Urban Survival Kit). Fuel and ammunition are in armored compartments with blow-off covers to reduce the risk of and protect the crew from the risk of the tank's own ammunition 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 (DU) mesh in their armor at the front of the turret and the front of the hull. Armor thus reinforced offers significantly increased 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 participating in Operation Desert Storm received an emergency program to upgrade their tanks with depleted uranium armor immediately before the onset of the campaign. M1A1 tanks uniformly incorporate depleted uranium armor, and all M1A1 tanks in active service have been upgraded to this standard as well. The strength of the armor is estimated to be about the same as similar Western, contemporary main battle tanks such as the Leopard 2. The M1A1 can survive multiple hits from the most powerful tank munitions (including 120 mm depleted uranium APFSDS) and anti-tank missiles[citation needed]. In the Persian Gulf War, Abrams tanks survived multiple hits at relatively close ranges from Iraqi T-72's and ATGM's.

Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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