The M1 Abrams has been in service since 1980. Since then, it has gone through dozens of upgrades and been the baseline variant of several vehicles.
An XM1 Abrams, during a demonstration at Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1979.
The first attempt to replace the aging M60 Patton 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-60 in November and XM803 December 1971, and redistributed the funds to the new XM815 later renamed the XM1 Abrams after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam. 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. The Leopard 2 was deemed right away as being too expensive and the General Motors design was labeled as inferior and thus the Chrysler Defense design was selected for development as the M1. In 1979, General Dynamics Land Systems Division purchased Chrysler Defense. The amount of them destroyed were roughly more than 2.
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.
------------------------------------------------/ / / / ----------------------------------------------------------
M1A1 Abrams pose for a photo under the "Hands of Victory" in Ceremony Square, Baghdad, Iraq
US Marine Corps M1A1 on a live fire exercise in Iraq, 2003
A destroyed USMC
M1A1 Abrams rests in front of a Fedayeen
camp just outside of Jaman Al Juburi, Iraq in April 2003.
M1A1 conducts reconnaissance in Iraq in September 2004.
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 shipped back to the United States for repair due to fire from 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 snipers and roadside bombs during the occupation that followed. Abandoned Abrams were purposely destroyed by friendly fire to prevent recovery of vehicle or technology. Damages by 25 mm AP-DU, anti-armor RPG fire and 12.7 mm rounds was encountered. But on no occasion did anti-tank guided weapons or anti-tank mines strike the US MBTs.
The most lopsided achievement of the M1A2s was the destruction of seven Lion of Babylon tanks in a point-blank skirmish (less than 50 yards (46 m)) near Mahmoudiyah, about 18 miles (29 km) south of Baghdad, with no losses for the American side. However, on October 29, 2003, two soldiers were killed and a third wounded when their tank was disabled by an anti-tank mine, which was combined with other explosives (500 kg (1,100 lb), including several 155 mm rounds) to increase its effect. The massive explosion beneath the tank knocked off the turret. This marked the first time deaths resulted from a hostile-fire assault on the M1 tank from enemy forces.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 (these can be seen in the below image, similar flat panels also being employed on British Challenger 2 tanks serving in the conflict). 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 couldn't be brought to bear. 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.
During the major combat operations in Iraq, Abrams crew members were lost when one tank of the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division, and US Marine Corps troops, drove onto a bridge. The bridge collapsed, dropping the tank into the Euphrates River, where four Marines drowned.[not in citation given]
During an early attack on Baghdad, one M1A1 was disabled by a recoilless rifle round that had penetrated the rear engine housing, and punctured a hole in the right rear fuel cell, causing fuel to leak onto the hot turbine engine. After repeated attempts to extinguish the fire, the decision was made to destroy or remove any sensitive equipment. Oil and .50 caliber rounds were scattered in the interior, the ammunition doors were opened and several thermite grenades ignited inside. Another M1 then fired a HEAT round in order to ensure the destruction of the disabled tank. The tank was completely disabled but still intact. Later, an AGM-65 Maverick and two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles were fired into the tank to finish its destruction. Remarkably, the tank still appeared to be intact from the exterior.
On November 27, 2004, an Abrams tank was badly damaged from the detonation of an extremely powerful improvised explosive device (IED). The IED consisted of three M109A6 155 mm shells, with a total explosive weight of 34.5 kg (76 lb), that detonated next to the tank. The tank's driver received lethal injuries from shrapnel. The other three crew members were able to escape.
On December 25, 2005, another U.S. Army M1A1 was disabled by an explosively formed penetrator IED. The IED penetrated through a road wheel, and hit the fuel tank, which left the tank burning near central Baghdad. One crew member, specialist Sergio Gudino, died in the attack.
On June 4, 2006, two of the four soldiers in an Abrams crew were killed in Baghdad when an IED detonated near their M1A2.
Some Abrams were disabled by Iraqi infantrymen in ambushes employing short-range antitank rockets, such as the Russian RPG-7, during the 2003 invasion. Although the RPG-7 is unable to penetrate the front and sides, the rear and top are vulnerable to this weapon. Frequently the rockets were fired at the tank tracks. Another was put out of action in an incident when fuel stowed in an external rack was struck by heavy machine gun rounds. This started a fire that spread to the engine.[dead link]
There have also been a number of Abrams crewmen killed by sniper fire during times when they were exposed through the turret hatches of their tanks. Some of these attacks were filmed by insurgents for propaganda purposes and spread via the Internet. One of these videos shows a large IED detonating beneath an Abrams and nearly flipping the vehicle, though it landed back on its treads and appeared to have suffered no serious damage as it was still mobile and traversing the turret following the attack. In another video, this one filmed by U.S. Army soldiers, an Abrams was attempting to crush an abandoned vehicle by running over it when a hidden IED inside the vehicle detonated directly beneath the tank, the Abrams again seeming to suffer no significant damage.[dead link]
It was reported that 28 Iraqi Army Abrams had been damaged in fighting with militants, five of them suffering full armor penetration when hit by ATGMs, in the period between 1 January and the end of May 2014; some were destroyed or damaged by militants placing explosive charges on or in the vehicles, highlighting the lack of adequate infantry support provided by Iraqi soldiers. In mid-2014, Iraqi Army Abrams tanks saw action when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant launched the June 2014 Northern Iraq offensive. Some Iraqi Army M1A1M tanks were destroyed in fighting against ISIL forces while an unknown number were captured intact. At least one ISIL-controlled M1A1M Abrams was reportedly used in the capture of the Mosul Dam in early August 2014. The Abrams suffered its first heavy losses at the hands of ISIL fighters against Iraqi-operated tanks through planted explosives, anti-tank missiles like the Kornet, and captured tanks later being destroyed by American airstrikes. The chief cause of these losses was the poor training of Iraqi tank operators and lack of infantry coordination. About one-third of the 140 Abrams tanks delivered to the Iraqi Army had been captured by ISIL. By December 2014, the Iraqi Army only had about 40 operational Abrams left. That month, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of another 175 Abrams to Iraq. The tanks may be fitted with additional protection features to defend against ISIL mine, roadside bomb, and other attacks including belly armor, reactive armor, 360-degree night vision sensors, mine-clearing blades and rollers, and a wide-area spotlight-equipped remotely operated gun mount. If approved by Congress and funded by the Iraqi government, the improvements could be made within 18 months.