After World War II, the lethality of weapons being used in militaries around the globe increased. In a response to this new threat, the United States military took the decision to completely redesign its Main Battle Tanks. There was a need for greater firepower, protection and mobility. The design proved to be a difficult undertaking as designers discovered that compromises would still have t be made between weight and mobility. The prorates for tank requirements had also changed and it was now required that they:
- Provided greater crew survivability;
- Had better surveillance and target acquisition performance;
- Maintained minimal time to acquire and hit a target
- Had country mobility over a number of terrains
- Incorporated sturdy equipment with high survivability
- Had a long operational range
- Were able to be modified
Prototypes went into production when contracts were given to the Chrysler Corporation and the Detroit Diesel Allison Division of the General Motors Corporation. They each went on to develop the M-60 series and the MBT-70 respectively. These were given to the US army for testing and after four months, the Chrysler Corporation tank, the M-60 was chosen for production. Production began in 1970 and the first round of thanks were completed by the Lima Army Modification Center in 1980. The tanks was then christened the M1A1 Abrams after General Creighton Abrams.
M1A1 Abrams Layout and Stations
The Abrams is designed following the same basic principles of its predecessors and it is manned by a four man crew (commander, gunner, driver and loader). Seated to the right of the turret are the commander and gunner. The loader is seated to the left while the driver is at the hull, front and center. It is 32.25 feet long, 12.0 feet wide and 8.0 feet high. It has a top speed of 41.5 MPH6 and weighs just over 7 tons.
The Commander’s Station
This is equipped with a 360 degree day and night vision views via six periscopes. The station also has automatic sector scanning and target cueing for the gunners sight, which eliminates the need for verbal communication. There is also a back-up firing system that allows the commander to fire the main gun.
The Gunner and Loader Station s
The M1A1 Abrams is equipped with an onboard digital fire control computer. The system was manufactured by the Electro-Optical Systems Division of Hughes Aircraft Company. The gunner is able to view an image that is made up of the difference in heat coming from objects in the field. The range measurement from the gunner’s Hughes laser range finder is also accurate to 10 metres. When a weapon is to be fired, the commander or gunner must manually input the ammunition type, barometric pressure and temperature.
The Loader’s station is located on the left side of the turret
The Driver’s Station
The M1A1’s hatch must be closed when the vehicle is in operation. The driver, sits at the front of the hull and is surrounded by an array of monitor giving readouts on the vehicles condition, fluid levels, electronics and batteries. The station also has observation periscopes, one for day and one for and night vision, that provide a 123 degree field of view.