The modern M1A2 has been improved so much that it hardly resembles the original tank on the inside. Proponents are calling it the most technologically advanced tank in the world. But it requires a long testing cycle. This year the Abrams M1A2 had to show its mettle by driving 2,000 miles in sub-Arctic weather to prove it can operate in the cold.
Abrams: Twisted Steel With Lots of Appeal
It’s hard to believe, but the Abrams original concept began during the Carter administration in the late 1970s. The first tanks were delivered in 1980. That’s over 40 years of service. The Abrams did not see major conflict until Operation Desert Storm, but there it dominated the Iraqis. Almost 1,900 tanks streamed across the desert to attack Saddam Hussein’s Army. That’s when the Abrams made piecemeal of the Iraqis. The Americans lost only 18 Abrams tanks, with nine taken out of service due to damages, while another nine were destroyed completely. Moreover, the United States didn’t lose a single tank crew member during the first Gulf War.
Since then, U.S. allies have ordered hundreds of the various Abrams models. To keep up with the demand and to compete with Russian tanks such as the T-14 Armata, the Americans needed to constantly improve the Abrams over the years. You can see the latest from 1945 on Russia’s T-14 Armata here and here.
The Abrams boasts a powerful 120mm smoothbore cannon and two machine guns. It has a crew of four. The loader can prepare a round for fire in three seconds. It sports a 1,500-horsepower gas turbine engine. The maximum speed is 42 miles per hour and its range is 265 miles.
The Abrams Is Greatly Improved From the Early Days
The most significant improvement has been the Inter-vehicle Information System (IVIS). During battle, the Abrams M1A2 can constantly communicate with ease. For example, the leading tank commander gets automatic updates on what tanks under his command are doing at any given time. Each tank has a unique position and navigation point that makes sure IVIS doesn’t disappoint during complex battle maneuvers. IVIS keeps track of enemy tanks giving the M1A2 huge advantages in combat. IVIS can also call for artillery fires to enhance the attack. Each tank commander gets an all-weather thermal sight. The driver has a digital display while the gunner sights has been upgraded. IVIS will eventually have voice recognition and digital mapping too.
The Abrams has been an amazing platform over the last 40 years. Due to various counter-insurgency battles during the war on terror, the Abrams has taken a back seat to dismounted infantry and cavalry units who were fighting insurgents. However, in a potential armored battle against Russia or China, the Army will have a decided advantage with the various Abrams upgrades. Unfortunately, the tank fight will not include the Marine Corps, as the marines have shut down their armor branch and have done away with the marine version of the Abrams tank. But the Army is still more than capable of dominating in armored warfare.
1945’s new Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.