The original prototype vehicle that led to one of - if not the - most powerful tank in the world, and current backbone of Us armored forces, the M1 Abrams MBT. Born out of the failed German-American MBT-70 project, the XM1 was developed by the
Chrysler Motor Corporation, and in 1978 Chrysler delivered to the Army a sleek, low-silhouette heavy tank that incorporated every major technological feature of the day, including computerized controls and a laser rangefinder.
But the most significant design feature of the new tank was its use of Chobham composite armor on the hull and turret. While the exact nature and composition of Chobham armor remains a closely guarded secret, the evidence suggests that it utilizes a matrix of ceramic armor tiles, layered between the vehicle's internal steel and external armored plating. When a high-velocity projectile - such as a round fired from a tank or an anti-tank missile - hits the armor, the explosion produces a high-velocity jet of gas that shears through the armor plating. In normal armor, this jet of gas - once it had passed through the outer armor - would blast into the hull of the tank, causing irreprible damage and often killing the crewmen inside. However, with Chobham armor's interweaved layers of ceramic composite, the forces that would normally tear into a tank's hull are forced to spread out and dissipate over a much wider area, leaving the inner hull intact. This not to say that Chobham armor renders a tank invincible - any hit will still cause exterior damage, and a powerfiul direct hit could still damage or disable the tracks or sensitive electronic equipment. But it would keep the crew alive, and often protect the tank itself enough to keep fighting.
Another key crew safety feature is the vault-like armored compartment that houses the Abrams' primary ammunition. One of the primary causes of a tank's destruction has not been the direct result of armor-pierecing hits, but the inderict results of those hits ignigting and detonating the tank's munitions. To protect this, a kevlar and steel armored plate seperates the crew from the ammunition store. Same with the tank's fuel supply. Even if the compartments were pierced, and the ammunition or fuel ignited, the protective plates would insulate the crew from explosion and fire.
In combat, the Abrams has proven to be second to none. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, M1s were able to take out Iraqi tanks at distances as long as 4km. Of the nearly 2,000 Abrams to see combat in the conflict, only 18 were ever taken out of service due to combat damage, and none resulted in any crew casulties. In 2003 and onwards during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Abrams again demonstrated a mastery of the battlefield, driving to Baghdad virtually unopposed. However, the Abrams clearly showed its vulnerability to ambush attacks, with a number of M1s severly damaged and disabled from RPGs, and far more frequently by roadside IED bomb traps. However, even when caught in some of the largest IED explosions, crew casualties have so far been astoundingly low, a testament to the M1s protection and survivability.
While no future M1's are planned for production, a number of older models are currently slated for upgrade to current standards over the next few years, and the Abrams will continue to serve with the Us Army and Marine Corps. for mcuh of the century to come.
M1 Abrams Vehicle Stats:
Type: Main battle tank
Manufacturer: General Dynamics Land Systems
First deployed: 1980
Length: 9.76 m
Width: 3.65 m
Height: 2.88 m
Weight: 61.4 tons
Armament, primary: 1 x 105mm M68 rifled tank gun; later models equipped with 120mm M256 smoothbore tank gun
Armament, secondary: 2 x 7.62mm FN-Browning M240 machineguns, 1 x .50-cal Browning M2 BMG machinegun
Ammo stowage, primary: 55 rounds
Ammo stowage, secondary: 11,000 rounds 7.62mm, 1,000 rounds .50-cal
Powerplant: Textron Lycoming AGT1500 1,500hp gas-turbine engine
Max speed: 72 km/h
Max range: 498km
Operators: Australia, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, USA