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Commentary

What It Really Takes to Disable America's Main Battle Tank

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So, you think you can take on the United States? I mean, really take on the United States, not just engage in guerrilla warfare or terrorist attacks. I mean head-to-head, mano-a-mano, airoplano-a-airoplano, full-on conventional war.

If you think you can (and I’m mostly talking about Russia and China, which are certainly odd entities to use second-person pronouns with, but bear with me) you probably should take a look at just what happens when you try to attack our main battle tank — the M1A2 Abrams.

The Abrams was approved for production in 1990, according to Military.com, which was 28 years ago. One would think that would make the M1A2 a bit vulnerable with age, kind of like an aging Muhammad Ali getting battered by Larry Holmes.

Think again.



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The late author Tom Clancy was well known for chronicling all things military. In his 1994 non-fiction book, “Armored Cav,” Clancy described just how much it would take to disable the Abrams.

According to We Are the Mighty, Clancy told how, during the 1991 Gulf War, an older model Abrams — the M1A1 — got itself stuck in the mud during the ground war phase. A sitting duck, right? A group of Iraqi T-72s certainly thought so.

The first T-72 fired a round at the Abrams from “roughly a thousand yards away.” It only bounced off the Abrams’ armor.

In response, the Abrams took aim at the T-72 and blew it up.

Do you think the Abrams has been a good tank?

Ba’athist tank commanders were apparently slow learners; a second T-72 fired a round at the Abrams. It also bounced off the armor of the Abrams, and the Abrams also blew it to bits. The third T-72 managed to fire a round from a closer range — 400 yards — which left a groove in the armor of the Abrams.

In response, the Abrams fired a shell through a sand berm. In spite of traveling through the sand, it still blew up the T-72.

Let me here state that the T-72 wasn’t exactly a weakling, either. Designed by the old Soviet Union, it was a fairly modern tank during the Gulf War. And yet, three of them were blown away by an Abrams stuck in the mud.

When backup arrived, they found they couldn’t get the Abrams out. So, instead of letting it fall into enemy hands, they decided to destroy it themselves. Except they couldn’t. Even blowing up the ammo on board didn’t do the job.

When the tank was finally retrieved, it was still operable. In fact, the only major problem was a misaligned sight.

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While there are plenty of things that could disable an Abrams (massive bombs, nuclear warfare, letting Ted Kennedy drive), most tank shells aren’t on that list. That’s how well armored they are. One person at the question-and-answer website Quora said that battleship shells would disable the Abrams. So there you have it — it would take a battleship. The Abrams won’t face many of them in a ground fight.

And just think: we’re already hard at work trying to get our next-generation tank into production. Talk about demoralizing for Russia and China.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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