M1 Abrams Tank: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About It

The Abrams tank closes with and destroys enemy forces on the integrated battlefield using mobility, firepower, and shock effect. The purpose of this vehicle is to provide mobile firepower for armored formations of sufficient capability to successfully close with and destroy any opposing armored fighting vehicle in the world, while providing protection for it’s crew in any conceivable combat environment.

It is capable of engaging the enemy in any weather, day or night on the multi-dimensional, non-linear battlefield using its firepower, maneuver, and shock effect. The Abrams Tank System synchronizes its high tempo, distributed maneuver via its digitized situational awareness and the fusion of onboard and remote battlefield sensors.

That being said, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.

1. The M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) is named after the late General Creighton W. Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and commander of the 37th Armored Battalion.  Almost every single US Army Tank has been named after a famous US Army General.  I.E. The Sherman, The Patton, The Bradley, The Pershing, etc.

2. Three versions of the Abrams tank are currently in service the original M1 model and two newer versions, designated M1A1 and M1A2.  The M1A1 series, produced from 1985 through 1993, replaced the M1’s 105mm main gun with a 120mm gun and incorporated numerous other enhancements, including an improved suspension, a new turret, increased armor protection, and a nuclear-chemical-biological protection system. The newer M1A2 series includes all of the M1A1 features plus a commander’s independent thermal viewer, an independent commander’s weapon station, position navigation equipment, and a digital data bus and radio interface unit providing a common picture among M1A2s on the battlefield.

3. Despite weighing about 72 ton, the M1A2 can reach speeds exceeding 45 MPH!  The M1 series tank is equipped with a 1500 horsepower Lycoming Textron gas turbine engine coupled to an Allison hydrokinetic transmission with four forward and two reverse gears.

4. The Abrams remained untested for over 10 years.  When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, there were concerns that the Abrams would fall victim to the sand and long months of continuous operation without the luxury of peacetime maintenance facilities. There were also doubts about the combat survivability of the extensive turret electronics. The Iraqi Army had a considerable array of tanks, mostly purchased from the former Soviet Union. Chief among these were T-72’s. These modern Soviet tanks were armed with an excellent 125mm smoothbore weapon and had many of the same advanced features found on the Abrams. Despite it’s advanced design, the T-72 proved to be inferior to the M1A1’s deployed during the Gulf War.  This led to further confidence and development of the M1A2 MBT.

5. When we say, “One Shot, One Kill”…we mean it!  The fire control system of the M1A2 Abrams is one of the most technically advanced pieces of equipment in our modern Army.  Every time a gunner acquires a target in their sights, which by themselves are highly advanced thermal sights, and uses their FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Laser) to input a range, a ballistic solution is calculated.  The fire control system is like your Physics professor on steroids…taking into consideration the speed of the target, the wind speed, temperature, humidity, speed of your platform, cant barometric pressure, the trajectory of the specific round it is firing…basically any variable that could affect the round and COMPENSATES FOR IT!  Your gunner may be looking through his sights and be looking straight, but the gun tube is physically on an angle, to ensure the round hits the target.  One shot…one kill!  Coupled with that is the Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV) which provides a hunter killer capability.  Basically, the TC (Tank Commander) is able to search for targets independently of the gunner and once he finds a target…BOOM, he can designate the gunner to that target and continue his scan…or engage the target from his position.

***** Watch this video of the M1 tank in action to see what I am talking about.

Final Thoughts: The M1 Abrams Tank is a fantastic fighting machine!  If you’ve ever worked on a tank crew or have experience with the Abrams tank, I would love to hear from you.  Leave a comment to share your story.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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10 thoughts on “M1 Abrams Tank: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About It”

  1. I had the opportunity to work on the design and manufacture of the DU composite armor that protects the Abrams Tank. The level of care with which we manufactured those armor components shows in the fact that only 18 Abrams tanks were taken out of service due to battle damage during the Gulf War. We also didn’t lose a single Abrams crew member to enemy fire. Pretty good record if I say so, myself.

    1. Although I was not a “tanker”, I did serve in the Gulf War with the Marines and had the opportunity to “tour” an M1 that still smelled of fresh paint. I was told by the crewmembers that the armor you helped develop was classified-ish and that in the event one of the armored skirts that partially protected the tracks was blown off, the crew were supposed to stop and retrieve it lest it fall into enemy hands. I was also intrigued by the apparent thickness of the front of the turret which, if you sat in the TC hatch and viewed the interior and exterior of the turret which had matching angles, it appeared to be really, really thick. The gunner of the tank I toured said that in school, they saw a video of an M1 shooting another M1 with a sabot round which he claims stuck in the turret like a dart. There were many more interesting facts I am leaving out but wanted to speak to the armor comment Lisa made. Good job on the armor Lisa.

  2. I spent two years as a tanker with the 1st CAV at Fort Hood. There is nothing I’ve enjoyed more in life than driving the M1 tank. I never got deployed while I was in, but I would have loved to operate this beast in combat.

  3. I am an armor officer in the California Army National Guard. I just transferred from my company from a platoon leader position and I can say I LOVE tanks. My company is one of the two armor companies left in California and I believe we are one of the few states that possesses the refurbished version of the M1A1 tank; M1A1SA (situational Awareness). I had been on both M1A1 and M1A2 V2 SEP and I can say the SEP tanks are better especially with the TC’s CITV and the designated control over the gunner; plus AC ;). The SAs is somewhat like the SEP tanks but has a scope on the .50 cal, which give the TC his own sight, smaller screen and no designated control. Gunner has an extra scope that allows better view rather than sticking his eye on the gunner sight. My experience as a tanker is marvelous and I will go back anytime, especially watching the infantry men walk by while I roll. hahaha.
    Best Experience: I got a a chance to crashed two cars with my tank when I was at BOLC and I just love how powerful I feel, with the cracking sounds beneath me xD

  4. The technological beast that the Abrams is would blow your mind. The M1 Abrams Master Gunner school is, in my opinion, THE hardest technical school in the Army. I think that is a bit of a disservice to the Mike Gulfs out there that they do not get a special badge or TAB for their Master Gunner qualification. They literally know the Abrams inside and out, just as well as the people that built it. Tanks are just one of the best toys the Army has and I am proud to be a part of that Armor community.

  5. I absolutely love the M1 Abrams tank. As a new officer, my first unit was a mechanized infantry brigade with two Bradley Battalions and one M1 Abrams Tanks battalion. Whenever we did maneuvers at the NTC, and in combat, I was always impressed with these tanks. Having them around helped me sleep good at night. They are one powerful fighting machine!

    Great post.


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