The Abrams Main Battle Tank is a true monster of American Military doctrine and thought. Tracing its lineage back all the way to the Sherman tank of the Second World War, it is designed to do two things extremely well:
1) Kill enemy (specifically Soviet) armor by the bushel.
2) Keep its own crew alive against exceptional Anti-Tank Guided Missiles and direct fire.
To understand why Abrams is a tough kill, you have to understand the environment it was designed to inhabit and dominate. The United States and NATO knew full well that they could never, ever, ever match the numbers the Warsaw Pact could put in the field- it was madness to try. What to do, then? Obviously, whatever was put in the Field against the Warsaw troops would have to be tough as hell, because a vast array of very advanced things would be trying to kill it: The Storm missile from HiNDS, the main guns of an ungodly number of T-55s, T-62/64s, T-72s, and T-80s, Frogfoot attack aircraft, and a whole cornucopia of infantry-born RPGs and guided missiles.
That is a whole lot of unpleasantness.
So, the folks at General Dynamics got to thinking. It would have to be fast, of course; NATO Doctrine hinged on elastic defense- being able to blast apart a Soviet spearhead, then haul ass to the next line of defense to rearm, repair, and refuel, then blast the next Soviet spearhead until a hole could be found and exploited in the Soviet lines. Also, supply was expected to be a pain in the neck, so they settled on a multi-fuel turbine- it was quieter, faster, and could use diesel, a variety of jet fuels, kerosene, gasoline, anything that would burn, really. So, it is fast enough to get out of trouble faster than it got into trouble, very important!
Next up was protection. The Warsaw Pact was going to throw a lot at this tank. General Dynamics teamed up with their British cousins, and brought home Chobham armor, a sophisticated layered material that is both incredibly tough and relatively light. Even that would not be enough to stop all the Soviet ordnance flying around, so the thought turned to surviving a penetration. The Abrams has a sophisticated fire-suppression system, and armored doors cutting off the ammunition storage (at the rear of the turret) from the crew. Should the ammunition be hit and explode, two armored panels at the top of the turret are blasted clean off and all the destructive force goes skyward. This protects the crew from being horribly roasted, and protects the engine bay as well. The driver’s compartment is separate from the rest of the crew compartment so that, should the turret be penetrated and the rest of the crew hurt, stunned, or otherwise unable to function, the driver can fall back to the amazing recovery and repair teams of the US military to fix up the men and the machine.
As the Abrams grew older, technology improved. Instead of scrapping the design, General Dynamics put on their mad-scientist thinking caps and improved on things with the M1A1- Depleted Uranium layers were added to the armor, increasing weight and also making the Abrams incredibly difficult to penetrate. As a matter of fact, in the Gulf War, an Abrams shot another Abrams (oops) with a legendary Depleted Uranium sabot dart. The shot bounced off the Abram’s incredibly tough armor!Moving into the streets, RPGs became a very real, very nasty thing. So the Mad Scientists of General Dynamics came up with this:
That’s TUSK armor- explosive reactive armor, gunnery shields for the machine guns, and cages around the engine bay to prevent those pesky rockets from ruining your perfect day!In short, in the course of the Gulf War, facing the kinds of vehicles that the Abrams was supposed to fight, the US lost 9 Abrams destroyed, and of those, seven were lost to friendly fire; 1,848 Abrams were deployed to Saudi Arabia. That is one hell of a testament to the abilities of the Abrams!
1)Fast as hell.
2)Extremely tough armor.
3)Very hard to set on fire/explode horribly.