The M1 Abrams Today and Tomorrow
INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES ALEXANDRIA VA
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The main battle tank of the U.S. Army is under pressure due to critical scrutiny from numerous fronts questioning its relevance to the modern security environment. The M1 Abrams played a key role briefly in Operation Iraqi Freedom and rarely in Operation Enduring Freedom. Moreover, due to an apparent perception within NATO that heavy U.S. armor was no longer needed, the Army redeployed the last of the Abrams based in Europe to the United States in 2013. Elsewhere, the relevance of heavy armor is being challenged. Anti-armor weapon technology has advanced considerably, to the point that even nonstate actors such as Hezbollah have seen some success against advanced main battle tanks i.e., Israeli Merkavas in 2006. Finally, the downward trajectories of both the overall U.S. military budget and the Army force structure threaten the Abrams force. The cumulative effect of these pressures will make tank force structure and tank modernization efforts prime candidates for budget reductions. This article is not an argument against all such reductions, but it does propose that contemplated reductions should be weighed carefully against realistic requirements and associated risks, and that options for maintaining a capable armor force be thoroughly explored based on the viability of extending and revitalizing the remaining Abrams.
- Combat Vehicles