Abrams tank showed 'vulnerability' in Iraq
Tim Ripley JDW Correspondent
The US Army's M1 Abrams main battle tank (MBT) top side, and rear armour "remains susceptible to penetration" and needs improving, according to the Tank and Automotive Command's (TACOM) Abrams programme manager office (PM Abrams).
In a report into the US Army's principal MBT's performance during Operation 'Iraqi Freedom', however, PM Abrams said the tank's frontal turret and hull armour continues to provide excellent crew protection.
"The tank performed extremely well providing excellent manoeuvre, firepower and overall crew protection", concluded the report, which has been seen by JDW. "Engines typically outlived expectancies and transmissions proved to be durable."
PM Abrams personnel deployed forward with US Army divisions during the war and collected first-hand feedback from tank crews to compile the report. There were "no catastrophic losses due to Iraqi direct or indirect fire weapons," but several tanks were destroyed due to secondary effects attributed to Iraqi weapon systems. US Army sources told JDW that the report was only "preliminary observations" rather than a definitive study and more work was continuing to further refine the exact causes of US tank losses in Iraq. Other US Army sources report that 14 Abrams tanks were damaged and two destroyed during the war.
Most M1 losses were attributed in the report to mechanical breakdown, or vehicles being stripped for parts or vandalised by Iraqis. There were "no reported cases" of an anti-tank guided missile being fired at any US Army vehicle.
Details of the M1 losses were given, including one where 25mm armour-piercing depleted uranium (AP-DU) rounds from an unidentified weapon disabled a US tank near Najaf after penetrating the engine compartment. Another Abrams was disabled near Karbala after a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) penetrated the rear engine compartment and one was lost in Baghdad after its external auxiliary power unit was set on fire by medium-calibre fire.
Left and right side non-ballistic skirts were repeatedly penetrated by anti-armour RPG fire, according to the report, but only cosmetic damage was caused when they were struck by anti-personnel RPG rounds. There were no reported hits on ballistic skirts and no reported instance of US tanks hitting an anti-tank mine. Turret ammunition blast doors worked as designed. In one documented instance where a turret-ready ammunition rack compartment was hit and main gun rounds ignited, the blast doors contained the explosion and crew survived unharmed except for fume inhalation.
391 of 800 words