Posted tagged ‘armor’

M1 Abrams: Tip of the Spear

May 9, 2010


The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. The M1 is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. It is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for modern armored ground warfare. Notable features of the M1 Abrams include the use of a powerful gas turbine engine, the adoption of sophisticated composite armor, and separate ammunition storage in a blow-out compartment for crew safety. It is one of the heaviest tanks in service, weighing in at close to 68 short tons (almost 62 metric tons).The M1 Abrams entered U.S. service in 1980, replacing the 105 mm gun, full tracked M60 Patton. It did, however, serve for over a decade alongside the improved M60A3, which had entered service in 1978. Three main versions of the M1 Abrams have been deployed, the M1, M1A1, and M1A2, incorporating improved armament, protection and electronics. These improvements, as well as periodic upgrades to older tanks have allowed this long-serving vehicle to remain in front-line service. The M1A3 is currently under development. It is the principal main battle tank of the United States Army and Marine Corps, and the armies of Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and in 2010 Iraq. The M1 Abrams is anticipated to be in U.S. service until the 2050s, approximately 70 years after entering U.S. service.




The first attempt to replace the aging M60 tank was the MBT-70, developed in partnership with West Germany in the 1960s. The MBT-70 was very ambitious, and had various ideas that ultimately proved unsuccessful. As a result of the imminent failure of this project, the U.S. Army introduced the XM803. This succeeded only in producing an expensive system with capabilities similar to the M60.Congress canceled the MBT-70 in November and XM803 December 1971, and redistributed the funds to the new XM815 later renamed the XM1 Abrams after General Creighton Abrams. Prototypes were delivered in 1976 by Chrysler Defense and General Motors armed with the license-built version of the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun along with a Leopard 2 for comparison. The Chrysler Defense design was selected for development as the M1. In 1979, General Dynamics Land Systems Division purchased Chrysler Defense.3273 M1 Abrams were produced 1979-85 and first entered US Army service in 1980. It was armed with the license-built version of the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun. An improved model called the M1IP was produced briefly in 1984 and contained small upgrades. The M1IP models were used in the Canadian Army Trophy NATO tank gunnery competition in 1985 and 1987.About 6000 M1A1 Abrams were produced from 1986–92 and featured the M256 120 mm smoothbore cannon developed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany for the Leopard 2, improved armor, and a CBRN protection system. 

 Gulf War


As the Abrams entered service in the 1980s, they would operate alongside M60A3 within the United States military, and with other NATO tanks in numerous Cold War exercises. These exercises usually took place in Western Europe, especially West Germany, but also in some other countries like South Korea. During such training, Abrams crews honed their skills for use against the men and equipment of the Soviet Union. However, by 1991 the USSR had collapsed and the Abrams would have its trial by fire in the Middle East.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, and locally-produced copies (Asad Babil tank). The T-72s, like most Soviet export designs, lacked night vision systems and then-modern rangefinders, though they did have some night fighting tanks with older active infrared systems or floodlights—just not the latest starlight scopes and passive infrared scopes as on the Abrams. Only 23 M1A1s were taken out of service in the Gulf. Some others took minor combat damage, with little effect on their operational readiness. Very few Abrams tanks were hit by enemy fire, and there was only one fatality, along with a handful of woundings as a result.

The M1A1 was capable of making kills at ranges in excess of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). This range was crucial in combat against tanks of Soviet design in Desert Storm, as the effective range of the main gun in the Soviet/Iraqi tanks was less than 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) . This meant Abrams tanks could hit Iraqi tanks before the enemy got in range—a decisive advantage in this kind of combat. In friendly fire incidents, the front armor and fore side turret armor survived direct APFSDS hits from other M1A1s. This was not the case for the side armor of the hull and the rear armor of the turret, as both areas were penetrated at least in two occasions by friendly DU ammunition during the Battle of Norfolk.


 Interwar upgrades


The M1A2 was a further improvement of the M1A1 with a commander’s independent thermal viewer and weapon station, position navigation equipment, digital data bus and a radio interface unit. The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) added digital maps, FBCB2 (Force XXI Battlefield Command Brigade and Below) capabilities, and an improved cooling system to maintain crew compartment temperature with the addition of multiple computer systems to the M1A2 tank.Further upgrades included depleted uranium armor for all variants, a system overhaul that returns all A1s to like-new condition (M1A1 AIM), a digital enhancement package for the A1 (M1A1D), a commonality program to standardize parts between the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps (M1A1HC) and an electronic upgrade for the A2 (M1A2 SEP).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 at a cost of US$2.35–$4.30 million per unit, depending on the variant. 

 Iraq War

 Further combat was seen during 2003 when US forces invaded Iraq and deposed the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. As of March 2005, approximately 80 Abrams tanks were forced out of action by enemy attacks. Nevertheless, the campaign saw very similar performance from the tank with no Abrams crew member being lost to hostile fire during the invasion of Iraq, although several tank crew members were later killed by roadside bombs during the occupation that followed.The most lopsided achievement of the M1A2s was the destruction of seven T-72 Lion of Babylon tanks in a point-blank skirmish (less than 50 yards ) near Mahmoudiyah, about 18 miles south of Baghdad, with no losses for the American side. In addition to the Abrams’ already heavy armament, some crews were also issued M136 AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons under the assumption that they might have to engage heavy armor in tight urban areas where the main gun could not be brought to bear.


Following lessons learned in Desert Storm, the Abrams and many other US combat vehicles used in the conflict were fitted with Combat Identification Panels to reduce friendly fire incidents. These were fitted on the sides and rear of the turret, with flat panels equipped with a four-cornered ‘box’ image on either side of the turret front . Some Abrams were also fitted with a secondary storage bin on the back of the existing bustle rack on the rear of the turret referred to as a bustle rack extension to enable the crew to carry more supplies and personal belongings.


Many Abrams (irrecoverable due to loss of mobility or other circumstances) were destroyed by friendly forces to prevent their capture, usually by other Abrams, who often found them very difficult to destroy despite their firepower.A majority of Abrams damaged post-invasion were by Improvised explosive devices.Some Abrams were disabled by Iraqi infantrymen in ambushes during the invasion. Some troops employed short-range anti-tank rockets and fired at the tracks, rear and top. Other tanks were put out of action when struck in critical places by heavy machine gun rounds.Due to the vulnerability of tanks in urban combat, the Tank Urban Survival Kit, or TUSK, is being issued to some M1 Abrams. It is intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments. 


The M1A3 Abrams is in the early design period with the U.S. Army. The Army aims to build prototypes by 2014 and to begin to field the first combat-ready M1A3s by 2017.




Unlike earlier US military vehicles from World War II through Vietnam, which used a scheme of dark brownish green known as “olive drab” with large white stars, prototypes and early production M1 (105 mm gun) & M1-IP models used the flat medium green paint; and the large white insignia stars have transitioned to much smaller black markings. Some units painted their M1s with the older MERDC 4-color paint scheme but the turn-in requirements for these tanks required repainting them to solid green. Therefore, even though a large number of the base model M1s were camouflaged in the field, few or none exist today.M1A1s (120 mm gun) came from the factory with the NATO 3 color camouflage Black/Med-Green/Dark-Brown CARC paint jobs. Today M1A1s are given the NATO three color paint job during rebuilds. M1s and M1A1s deployed to Desert Storm were hastily painted desert tan. Some, but not all, of these tanks were re-painted to their “authorized” paint scheme. M1A2s built for Middle Eastern countries were painted in desert tan.Some M1 series tanks are being painted desert tan for service in Iraq and some are not. Replacement parts (roadwheels, armor skirt panels, drive sprockets, etc.) are painted overall green, which can sometimes lead to vehicles with a patchwork of green and desert tan parts.




The turret is fitted with two six-barreled smoke grenade launchers (USMC M1A1s use an eight-barreled version). 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. When activated, fuel is sprayed on the engine manifold, creating the thick smoke. However, due to change from diesel as a primary fuel to the use of JP-8, this system is disabled on most Abrams today, because JP-8 causes the tanks to catch fire when sprayed on the manifold.


 Active protection system

In addition to the advanced armor, some Abrams are equipped with a Missile Countermeasure Device that can impede the function of guidance systems of semi-active control line-of-sight (SACLOS) wire and radio guided anti-tank missiles (Russian AT-3, AT-4, AT-5, AT-6 and the like) and thermally and infrared guided missiles (ATGM).[19] This device is mounted on the turret roof in front of the loader’s hatch, and can lead some people to mistake Abrams fitted with these devices for the M1A2 version, since the Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer on the latter is mounted in the same place, though the MCD is box-shaped and fixed in place as opposed to cylindrical and rotating like the CITV.




The Abrams is protected by armor based on the British-designed Chobham armor, a further development of the British ‘Burlington’ armor. Chobham is a composite armor formed by spacing multiple layers of various alloys of steel, ceramics, plastic composites, and kevlar, giving an estimated maximum (frontal turret) 1,320–1,620 millimetres (52–64 in) of RHAe versus HEAT (and other chemical energy rounds) and 940–960 mm (37–38 in) versus kinetic energy penetrators. It may also be fitted with reactive armor over the track skirts if needed (as in the Urban Survival Kit) and Slat armor over the rear of the tank and rear fuel cells to protect against ATGMs. Protection against spalling is provided by a Kevlar liner. Beginning in 1987, M1A1 tanks received improved armor packages that incorporated depleted uranium  mesh in their armor at the front of the turret and the front of the hull. Armor reinforced in this manner offers significantly increased resistance towards all types of anti-tank weaponry, but at the expense of adding considerable weight to the tank, as depleted uranium is 1.7 times more dense than lead.


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-based tank battalions participating in Operation Desert Storm received an emergency program to upgrade their tanks with depleted uranium armor immediately before the onset of the campaign. M1A2 tanks uniformly incorporate depleted uranium armor, and all M1A1 tanks in active service have been upgraded to this standard as well, the added protection from the depleted uranium armor is believed to be equivalent to 24 inches  of RHA. The strength of the armor is estimated to be about the same as similar western, contemporary main battle tanks such as the Leopard 2. In the Persian Gulf War, Abrams tanks survived multiple hits at relatively close ranges from Iraqi Lion of Babylon tanks and ATGMs. M829A1 “Silver Bullet” APFSDS rounds from other M1A1 Abrams were unable to penetrate the front and side armor (even at close ranges) in friendly fire incidents as well as an incident in which another Abrams tried to destroy an Abrams that got stuck in mud and had to be abandoned.


 Damage control

In the chance that the Abrams does suffer damage resulting in a fire in the crew compartment, the tank is equipped with a halon fire-suppression system that automatically engages and extinguishes fires in seconds.Fuel and ammunition are in armored compartments with blowout panels to protect the crew from the risk of the tank’s own ammunition cooking off if the tank is damaged.



 Primary armament

M68A1 rifled gun

The main armament of the original model M1 was the M68A1 105 mm rifled tank gun firing a variety of high explosive anti-tank, high explosive, white phosphorus and an anti-personnel (multiple flechette) round. This gun is a license-built version of the British Royal Ordnance L7 gun. While being a reliable weapon and widely used by many NATO nations, a cannon with lethality beyond the 3-kilometer (1.9 mi) range was needed to combat newer armor technologies. To attain that lethality, projectile diameter needed to be increased. The M68A1’s performance in terms of accuracy and armor-piercing penetration is on par with the M256A1 up to 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) out, but beyond that range the 105 mm projectile lacks the kinetic energy to defeat modern armor packages.

M256 smoothbore gun

The main armament of the M1A1 and M1A2 is the M256A1 120 mm smoothbore gun, designed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany, manufactured under license in the United States by Watervliet Arsenal, New York. The M256A1 is a variant of the Rheinmetall 120 mm L/44 gun carried on the German Leopard 2 on all variants up to the Leopard 2A5. Leopard 2A6 replaced the L/44 barrel with a longer L/55.The M256A1 fires a variety of rounds. The M829A2 was developed specifically to address the threats posed by a Soviet T-90 or T-80U tank equipped with Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armor. It also fires HEAT shaped charge rounds such as the M830, the latest version of which (M830A1) incorporates a sophisticated multi-mode electronic sensing fuse and more fragmentation which allows it to be used effectively against armored vehicles, personnel, and low-flying aircraft. The Abrams uses a manual loader, due to the belief that having a crewman reload the gun is faster and more reliable.[citation needed] and because autoloaders do not allow for separate ammunition storage in the turret.[citation needed] The fourth tank crewman on the Abrams also provides additional support for maintenance, observation post/listening post (LP/OP) operations, and other tasks.

The new M1028 120 mm anti-personnel canister cartridge was brought into service early for use in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contains 1,098 3⁄8-inch (9.5 mm) tungsten balls which spread from the muzzle to produce a shotgun effect lethal out to 600 meters (2,000 ft). 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 covering fire. The canister round is also a highly effective breaching round and can level cinder block walls and knock man-sized holes in reinforced concrete walls for infantry raids at distances up to 75 meters (246 ft).


In addition to this, the new XM1111 (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. This is intended to be the best penetrator yet, an improvement over the US 3rd generation DU penetrator (estimated penetration 790 mm (31 in)).


 Secondary armament


The Abrams tank has three machine guns:


A .50 cal. (12.7 mm) M2HB machine gun is 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 Commander’s Weapon Station (CWS for short), while the vehicle is “buttoned up” with all its hatches closed to protect the crew. On the M1A2 & M1A2SEP, this gun is on a flex mount (seen at right), the Commander having to expose himself to fire the weapon manually. With the forthcoming TUSK addon kit, an M2HB or a Mk 19 grenade launcher can be mounted on the CROWS remote weapons platform (similar to the Protector M151 remote weapon station used on the Stryker family of vehicles). The upgrade variant called M1A1 Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) equips the .50 caliber gun with a thermal sight for accurate night and other low-visibility shooting.

A 7.62 mm M240 machine gun is in front of the loader’s hatch on a skate mount. Some of these have been fitted with gun shields during the ongoing conflict in Iraq as seen in the image at right, as well as night-vision scopes for low-visibility engagements.

A second 7.62 mm M240 machine gun is in a coaxial mount to the right of the main gun. The coaxial MG is aimed and fired with the same computer fire control system used for the main gun.

(Optional) A second coaxial 12.7 mm M2HB machine gun can be mounted directly above the main gun in a remote weapons platform as part of the TUSK upgrade kit.

For the US Army in previous years, the Abrams usually maintained the provision for storing an M16 rifle or M4 carbine inside the turret in case the crew is required to leave the tank under potentially hostile conditions; while the crewmen were supplied with the M9 Beretta pistol as a personal sidearm. Considering the current (often dismounted) role of American armored crewmen and contemporary operating environments, though, current US Army crews maintain a rifle or carbine for each crewman. During Iraqi Freedom some crews were also issued M136 AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons under the assumption that they might have to engage heavy armor in tight urban areas where the main gun could not be brought to bear.




The Abrams is equipped with a ballistic fire-control computer that uses user and system-supplied data from a variety of sources, to compute, display, and incorporate the three components of a ballistic solution – lead angle, ammunition type, and range to the target, to accurately fire the tank. These three components are determined using a YAG rod laser rangefinder, crosswind sensor, a pendulum static cant sensor, data concerning performance and flight characteristics of each specific type of round, tank-specific boresight alignment data, ammunition temperature, air temperature, barometric pressure, a muzzle reference system (MRS) that determines and compensates for barrel droop at the muzzle due to gravitational pull and barrel heating due to firing or sunlight, and target speed determined by tracking rate tachometers in the Gunner’s or Commander’s Controls Handles. All of these factors are computed into a ballistic solution and updated 30 times per second. The updated solution is displayed in the Gunner’s or Tank Commander’s field of view in the form of a reticle in both day and Thermal modes. The ballistic computer manipulates the turret and a complex arrangement of mirrors so that all one has to do is keep the reticle on the target and fire to achieve a hit. Proper lead and gun tube elevation are applied to the turret by the computer, greatly simplifying the job of the Gunner.The fire-control system uses these data to compute a firing solution for the gunner. The ballistic solution generated ensures a hit percentage greater than 95 percent at nominal ranges. Either the commander or gunner can fire the main gun. Additionally, the Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV) on the M1A2 can be used to locate targets and pass them on for the gunner to engage while the commander scans for new targets. In the event of a malfunction or damage to the primary sight system, the main and coaxial weapons can be manually aimed using a telescopic scope boresighted to the main gun known as the Gunner’s Auxiliary Sight (GAS). The GAS has two interchangeable reticles; one for HEAT and MPAT (MultiPurpose AntiTank) rounds and one for APFSDS and STAFF (Smart Target-Activated Fire and Forget) ammunition. Turret traverse and main gun elevation can be accomplished with manual handles and cranks in the event of a Fire Control System or Hydraulic System failure. The commander’s M2 .50 caliber machine gun on the M1 and M1A1 is aimed by a 3x magnification sight incorporated into the Commander’s Weapon Station (CWS), while the M1A2 uses either the machine gun’s own iron sights, or a remote aiming system such as the CROWS system when used as part of the TUSK (Tank Urban Survival Kit). The loader’s M240 machine gun is aimed either with the built-in iron sights or with a thermal scope mounted on the machine gun.



The M1 Abrams is powered by a 1,500 shaft horsepower (1,100 kW) Honeywell AGT 1500 (originally made by Lycoming) gas turbine, and a six speed (four forward, two reverse) Allison X-1100-3B Hydro-Kinetic automatic transmission, giving it a governed top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) on paved roads, and 30 mph (48 km/h) cross-country. With the engine governor removed, speeds of around 60 mph (97 km/h) are possible on an improved surface; however, damage to the drive train (especially to the tracks) and an increased risk of injuries to the crew can occur at speeds above 45 mph (72 km/h). The tank for all intents and purposes was built around this engine.[26] The tank can be fueled with diesel fuel, kerosene, any grade of motor gasoline, JP-4 jet fuel, or JP-8 jet fuel; the US Army uses JP-8 jet fuel in order to simplify logistics. The Royal Australian Armoured Corps’ M1A1 AIM SA uses diesel fuel; it is cheaper and makes practical sense for Australian military logistics.



Driving controls the gas turbine propulsion system has proven quite reliable in practice and combat, but its high fuel consumption is a serious logistic issue (starting up the turbine alone consumes nearly 10 US gallons (38 l) of fuel).[27] The engine burns more than 1 US gallon (3.8 l) per mile and 12 US gallons (45 l) per hour when idle.[28] The high speed, high temperature jet blast emitted from the rear of M1 Abrams tanks makes it difficult for the infantry to proceed shadowing the tank in urban combat. The turbine is very quiet when compared to diesel engines of similar power output and produces a significantly different sound from a contemporary diesel tank engine, reducing the audible distance of the sound, thus earning the Abrams the nickname “whispering death” during its first REFORGER exercise.

 Honeywell was developing another gas turbine engine with General Electric for the XM2001 Crusader program that was also to be a replacement for the AGT-1500 engine already in the Abrams tank. The new LV100-5 engine is lighter and smaller (43% fewer parts) with rapid acceleration, quieter running and no visible exhaust. It also features a 33% reduction in fuel consumption (50% less when idle) and near drop-in replacement. The Abrams-Crusader Common Engine Program was shelved when the Crusader program was canceled, however Phase 2 of Army’s PROSE (Partnership for Reduced O&S Costs, Engine) program calls for further development of the LV100-5 and replacement of the current AGT-1500 engine. Future US tanks may return to reciprocating engines for propulsion, as 4-stroke diesel engines have proven quite successful in other modern heavy tanks, e.g. the Leopard 2, Challenger 2 and Merkava.Using a high power density 330 cc (20 cu in) Wankel rotary engine modified to use diesel and military grade jet fuel, TARDEC developed a 220-pound (100 kg) Auxiliary Power Unit designed to fit into the M1 Abrams, replacing an existing battery pack that weighs about 500 pounds (230 kg). The new APU will also be more fuel efficient. The installation of the first APUs is expected to start in 2009.


A provision exists that the Abrams be able to transport passengers in tank desant with the turret stabilization device off. One Infantry squad carrying only their battle gear may ride the rear of the turret. The soldiers have the option of using ropes and equipment straps as a field-expedient Infantry rail to provide handholds and snap links to secure themselves to the turret. The Squad leader, team leaders, grenadiers sit on the left and right sides of the turret, while the riflemen, and automatic riflemen sit at the rear. If and when enemy contact is made, the tank conceals itself allowing the infantry to dismount.


 Strategic mobility


Strategic mobility is the ability of the tanks of an armed force to arrive in a timely, cost effective, and synchronized fashion. The Abrams can be carried by a C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster III. The limited capacity (two combat-ready 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.The Abrams is also transportable by truck, namely the M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET). The HET can operate on highways, secondary roads, and cross-country. The HET accommodates the 4 tank crewmen.


The government-owned Lima Army Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio, currently manufactures the Abrams, the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Warren, Michigan manufactured it from 1982 to 1996. It costs upwards of US$5 million a tank


 Tank Urban Survival Kit

 The Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK), is a series of improvements to the M1 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 Transparent Armor Gun Shield and a thermal sight system are added to the loader’s top-mounted M240B 7.62 mm machine gun, and a Kongsberg Gruppen Remote Weapon Turret carrying a .50 caliber machine gun (again similar to that used on the Stryker) is in place of the tank commander’s original .50 caliber machine gun mount, wherein the commander had to expose himself to fire the weapon manually. 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.While the reactive armor may not be needed in most situations in maneuver warfare, items like the rear slat armor, loader’s gun shield, infantry phone (which saw use on Marine Corps M1A1s as early as 2003), and Kongsberg Remote Weapons Station for the .50 caliber machine gun will be added to the entire M1A2 fleet over time.


On August 29, 2006, General Dynamics Land Systems received a US Army order for 505 Tank Urban Survivability Kits (TUSK) for Abrams main battle tanks supporting operations in Iraq, under a US$45 million contract. The add-on kit will be provided for M1A1 and M1A2-series tanks to enhance crew survivability in urban environments. The kit ordered by the Army consists of a Loader’s Armor Gun Shield (LAGS), a Tank Infantry Phone (TIP), Abrams Reactive Armor Tiles (ARAT), a Remote Thermal Sight (RTS) and a Power Distribution Box (PDB). Deliveries are expected to be complete by April 2009.


Under a separate order, the US Army awarded General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GDATP) US$30 million to produce reactive armor kits to equip M1A2. The total contract value could reach $59 million if all contract options are exercised. The reactive tiles for the M1 will be locally produced at GDATP’s Burlington Technology Center. Tiles will be produced at the company’s reactive armor facility in Stone County Operations, McHenry, Miss. On December 8, 2006 the U.S. Army added Counter Improvised Explosive Device enhancements to the M1A1 and M1A2 TUSK, awarding GDLS U.S. $11.3 million, part of the $59 million package mentioned above. In December GDLS also received an order amounting about 40% of a US$48 million order for loader’s thermal weapon sights being part of the TUSK system improvements for the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams Tanks.



 Australia – 59 M1A1SA (hybrids, mix equipment used by US.Army tanks and U.S.M.C. tanks, without DU layers in armor) tanks were bought from the United States in 2006, to replace the Leopard AS1 in 2007.

 Egypt – 1005 M1A1 (downgraded, without DU layers in armor) tanks co-produced by the USA and Egypt for the Egyptian army.

 Iraq – 140 M1A1M’s (downgraded, without DU layers in armor) on order, to be delivered by 2011. Currently 22 US.Army M1A1’s are leased for training.

 Kuwait – 218 M1A2s (downgraded, without DU layers in armor)

 Saudi Arabia – 373 eventually to be upgraded to M1A2S (without DU layers in armor)

 United States – Approximately 6,000 M1A1 and M1A2 variants including both Army and Marine Corps inventory + 3268 M1 and M1IP variants, not used in storage, waiting for upgrade to M1A2SEP variant (most of them) or rebuild to specialised vehicles.

1,174 M1A2 and M1A2SEP variants (Army inventory)

4,393 M1A1 variants (Army inventory). Under upgrade process to M1A1SA variant.

403 M1A1HC’s variants (Marine Corps inventory). Under upgrade process to M1A1FEP.

Type Main battle tank

Place of origin  United States

Service history

In service 1980–present
Production history

Designer Chrysler Defense
Manufacturer Lima Army Tank Plant (1980-present)
Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant (1982-1996)
Unit cost US$6.21 million (M1A2 / FY99)
Number built 9,000+
Weight 67.6 short tons 
Length Gun forward: 32.04 ft
Hull length: 26.02 ft 
Width 12 ft 
Height 8 ft 
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
Armor Chobham, RH armor, steel encased depleted uranium mesh plating
Primary armament 105 mm M68 rifled cannon (M1) 120 mm M256 smoothbore cannon (M1A1, M1A2, M1A2SEP))
Secondary armament 1 x .50-caliber  M2HB heavy machine gun
2 x 7.62 mm  M240 machine guns (1 pintle-mounted, 1 coaxial)
Engine Honeywell AGT1500C multi-fuel turbine engine
1,500 shp (1,120 kW)
Power/weight 24.5 hp/metric ton
Transmission Allison DDA X-1100-3B
Suspension Torsion bar
Ground clearance 1 ft 7 in (M1, M1A1) 1 ft 5 in (M1A2)
Fuel capacity 500 US gallons 
Operational range 289 mi With NBC system: 279 mi 
Speed Road: 42 mph Off-road: 30 mph


Here Comes the General

May 6, 2010

The M3 Stuart, formally Light Tank M3, was an American light tank of World War II. It was used by British and Commonwealth forces prior to the entry of the USA into the war, and thereafter by US and Allied forces until the end of the war. The name General Stuart or Stuart given by the British comes from the American Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart and was used for both the M3 and the derivative M5 Light Tank; in British service it also had the unofficial nickname of Honey (named when a tank driver remarked “She’s a honey”). To the United States Army the tanks were officially known only as “Light Tank M3” and “Light Tank M5”.


Observing events in Europe, American tank designers realized that the Light Tank M2 was becoming obsolete and set about improving it. The upgraded design, with thicker armor, modified suspension and new gun recoil system was called “Light Tank M3”. Production of the vehicle started in March 1941 and continued until October 1943. Like its direct predecessor, the M2A4, the M3 was armed with a 37 mm M5 gun and five .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns: coaxial with the gun, on top of the turret in an M20 AA mount, in a ball mount in right bow, in the right and left hull sponsons.

To relieve the demand for the radial aero-engines used in the M3, a new version was developed using twin Cadillac V-8 automobile engines. The new model (initially called M4 but redesignated M5 to avoid confusion with the M4 Sherman) also featured a redesigned hull with sloped glacis plate and driver’s hatches moved to the top. Although the main criticism from the units using it was that the Stuarts lacked firepower, the improved M5 series kept the same 37 mm gun. The M5 gradually replaced the M3 in production from 1942 and was in turn succeeded by the Light Tank M24 in 1944.

Combat history

The British Army was the first to use the Light Tank M3 as the “General Stuart” in combat. In November 1941, some 170 Stuarts took part in Operation Crusader during the North Africa Campaign, with poor results. Although the high losses suffered by Stuart-equipped units during the operation had more to do with better tactics and training of the Afrika Korps than the apparent superiority of German armoured fighting vehicles used in the North African, the operation revealed that the M3 had several technical faults. Mentioned in the British complaints were the 37 mm M5 gun and poor internal layout. The two-man turret crew was a significant weakness, and some British units tried to fight with three-man turret crews. The Stuart also had a limited range, which was a severe problem in the highly mobile desert warfare as units often outpaced their supplies and were stranded when they ran out of fuel. On the positive side, crews liked its high speed and mechanical reliability. The high speed[citation needed] and high reliability distinguished the Stuart from cruiser tanks of the period, in particular the Crusader, which composed a large portion of the British tank force in Africa up until 1942.From the summer of 1942, when enough US medium tanks had been received, the British usually kept Stuarts out of tank-to-tank combat, using them primarily for reconnaissance. The turret was removed from some examples to save weight and improve speed and range. These became known as “Stuart Recce”. Some others were converted to armored personnel carriers and were known as “Stuart Kangaroo”, and some were converted command vehicles and known as “Stuart Command”. M3s, M3A3s, and M5s continued in British service until the end of the war, but British units had a smaller proportion of these light tanks than US units.The other major Lend-Lease recipient of the M3, the Soviet Union, was even less happy with the tank, considering it undergunned, underarmored, likely to catch fire, and too sensitive to fuel quality. The narrow tracks were highly unsuited to operation in winter conditions, as they resulted in high ground pressures under which the tank sank into the snow. Further, the M3’s radial aircraft engine required high-octane fuel, which complicated Soviet logistics as most of their tanks used diesel. However, the M3 was superior to early-war Soviet light tanks such as the T-60, which were often underpowered and possessed even lighter armament than the Stuart. In 1943, the Red Army tried out the M5 and decided that the upgraded design was not much better than the M3. Being less desperate than in 1941, the Soviets turned down an American offer to supply the M5. M3s continued in Red Army service at least until 1944.

In US Army service, the M3 first saw combat in the Philippines. Two battalions, comprising the Provisional Tank Group fought in the Bataan peninsula campaign. When the American army joined the North African Campaign in late 1942, Stuart units still formed a large part of its armor strength. After the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass the US quickly followed the British in disbanding most of their light tank battalions and subordinating the Stuarts to medium tank battalions performing the traditional cavalry missions of scouting and screening. For the rest of the war, most US tank battalions had three companies of M4 Shermans and one company of M3s or M5/M5A1s.

In Europe, Allied light tanks had to be given cavalry and infantry fire support roles since their main cannon armament could not compete with heavier enemy AFVs. However, the Stuart was still effective in combat in the Pacific Theater, as Japanese tanks were both relatively rare and were generally much weaker than even Allied light tanks. Japanese infantrymen were poorly equipped with anti-tank weapons and tended to attack tanks using close-assault tactics. In this environment, the Stuart was only moderately more vulnerable than medium tanks. In addition, the poor terrain and roads common to the theatre were unsuitable for the much heavier M4 medium tanks, and so initially, only light armor could be deployed. Heavier M4s were eventually brought to overcome heavily entrenched positions, though the Stuart continued to serve in a combat capacity until the end of the war.

Though the Stuart was to be completely replaced by the newer M24 Chaffee, the number of M3s/M5s produced was so great (over 25,000 including the 75 mm HMC M8) that the tank remained in service until the end of the war and well after. In addition to the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union, who were the primary users, it was also used by France, China (M3A3s and, immediately post-war, M5A1s) and Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia (M3A3s and few M3A1).

After the war, some countries chose to equip their armies with cheap and reliable Stuarts. The Republic of China Army, having suffered great attrition as a result of the ensuing civil war, rebuilt their armored forces by acquiring surplus vehicles left behind in the area by the US forces, including 22 M5A1s to equip two tank companies. They would have their finest hours during the Battle of Kuningtou, for which the tank came to be known as the “Bear of Kinmen”. The M5 played a significant role in the First Kashmir War (1947) between India and Pakistan, including the battle of Zoji-la pass fought at an altitude of nearly 12,000 ft. The vehicle remained in service in several South American countries at least until 1996.During the 60s and 70s, the Portuguese Army also used some in the war in Angola, where its all terrain capability (compared to wheeled vehicles) was greatly appreciated. An unspecified number of M5A1 Light Tanks served with the 1927th Cavalry Battalion stationed at Nambuangongo, being employed mostly for convoy escort duties and limited counterinsurgency operations. Period photographs show some modifications in the basic design, namely the omission of the bow machine gun, re-installed on a pintle mount in the roof of the turret and a small searchlight fitted in front of the commander’s copula .

In the media

A heavily modified M5A1 Stuart was featured in the movie Tank Girl as the eponymous heroine’s tank.

Modified Stuarts were used in the movie Attack! as German tanks.

“The Haunted Tank” was a DC Comics feature that appeared in GI Combat starring an M3 Stuart scout tank commanded by Lieutenant Jeb Stuart, a direct descendant and namesake of the Civil War cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart. The tank was haunted by the Confederate officer, who would appear to warn his kinsman of impending danger or offer usually cryptic advice on how to handle a combat action. The original series ran from 1961 to 1987.

Light Tank M3A3 (Stuart V)

Type     Light tank

Place of origin      United States

Produced     1941–1945

Weight      32,400 lb
Length      14.8 ft
Width      8.1 ft
Height      7.5 ft
Crew      4 (Commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Armor      13–51 mm
armament 37 mm M6 in M44 mount 174 rounds

armament 3 × .30-06 Browning M1919A4 MG 7,500 rounds

Engine     Continental W-670-9A, 7 Cylinder air-cooled radial 250 hp

Power/weight     17.82 hp/tonne

Suspension     Vertical volute spring

range     74 mi
Speed     36 mph (road) 18 mph (off-road)

Note:  All of the photographs were taken on my visit to the Tank Museum in Danville, Va. in April 2006

The Battle

April 22, 2010

This was my final graduation demo from the School of Communication Arts. It began as a storyboard idea of a one on one tank engagement in World War II between a US Sherman tank and a German Panther tank. Through time constraints and fluid ideas, it evolved into what you see here. The Sherman tank was modeled using Alias Maya 4. The texture mapping was referenced from various tech drawings and pictures. The P-51 aircraft were modeled using my own creative interpretation of what a P-51D would look like. I did use the skinning and mapping to reflect actual aircraft paint schemes. Some of the skills I learned on the fly were the movement of the tank tread and the particle smoke and explosions seen in the reel. These were self taught and within the confines of the time limit due to the instructor not knowing how to give me the proper technique. My other pride and joy was the USMC AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter. This was modeled only using photographs and the skinning was my own design take on it. The software used was Alias Maya, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, and SoundForge.