The M1 Abrams

While we’ve already presented an overview of the M1 Abrams series in a previous, in this post we’ll look into the background to its development. The M1 Abrams represented the starkest diversion from World War Two tank design doctrine and stood the test of time in numerous theatres thereafter. Prior to and during WWII, tanks were designed according to light, medium and heavy categories. As battlefield experiences affected design doctrine, a shift to medium tanks then main battle tanks occurred over the course of the Cold War. The latter Patton series tanks were the earliest contributions to main battle tank technology. However, the M1 Abrams cemented this shift in tank design doctrine.

Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, NATO’s battle doctrine was extensively reviewed. In the face of a considerable Soviet fleet of superior tanks, the new doctrine aimed to plug gaps in NATO’s own tank designs. In 1976, as NATO mulled over tank design doctrine, a new conceptual framework for warfighting doctrine emerged. Dubbed the “AirLand Battle” doctrine, it focused on aggressively mobile defensive ground forces to be supported by air combat forces, responsible for attacking the enemy’s rear-echelon forces. Thus, the AirLand Battle doctrine shifted the onus from individual tank capabilities to how well they performed alongside air forces. In essence, this is where the concept of a main battle tank shone most.

Representing a compromise in terms of capabilities and performance, main battle tanks (MBTs) aim to achieve whatever objectives their budgets allow. Initial M1 Abrams prototypes were produced by Chrysler Defense and General Motors in 1976. These designs were tested against the German Leopard 2K and proved superior. Offering greater flexibility with engine type, the Chrysler design was ultimately chosen. Production was approved on 7th May 1979. By the time Chrysler was purchased in 1982 by General Dynamics Land Systems Division (GDLS), over 1,000 M1 Abrams tanks had been built.

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