Saturday, 4 August 2018

The M1 Abrams tank family tree

It's Abramania August on miniature army! Every few days an article on a version of the Abrams tank. The blogs are posted all at once however with the first one to read placed at the latest date so that when scrolling through the blog from present to past the blogs appear in a logical order. Today: The history and versions of the Abrams tank

The M1 Abrams Family tree

The development of the Abrams tank and the first operational version: The M1 Abrams

The Abrams tank is a development that started with the MBT-70, a MBT development project of West-Germany and the USA. The project proved to be too expensive and was shut down. Technology developed for this project was used on both the Abrams and Leopard II so these tanks are 'siblings' is a way. The M1 Abrams was the first tank to be designed with a laser range finder, targeting computer, thermionic targeting system and sensors in the gun barrel to measure distortions of the barrel. The M1 was armed with a 105mm gun and powered by an 1500 hp turbine engine. The first tanks where operational in 1978. These Abrams tanks have been painted in MERDC camouflage giving you a wide range of color scheme's to chose from.

Below two photo's of the prototype. the frontal armor is very different from the armor placed on the production versions of the tank but otherwise this is the Abrams in it's production form.

The first production type is simply known as the 'M1 Abrams' and was also painted in the MERDC colors but also plain green:

A successful experiment: The M1IP and M1E1

The M1E1 Abrams is a prototype for the M1A1 Abrams, the first type of Abrams to receive upgrades in turret armor and a 120mm gun. In order to carry the heavier gun the front suspension is also improved. The M1 Abrams was already designed with the placement of a 120mm gun in mind so this was a relatively easy conversion. One of the prototypes carried some extra armor plates welded to the turret. A close up of this can be seen on the photo below more information on and the photo on this site. From 1978 onwards small improvements where already installed on the M1's making them known as M1IP's. One of the improvements was the larger stowage rack on the back of the turret still used today.

A new standard: The M1A1(HA) Abrams

After testing with M1E1 Abrams modifications where implemented in the M1A1(HA) model of the Abrams from 1985 onwards. These include additional depleted uranium armor, a 120mm smoothbore gun, new blastdoors above the ammunition storage, an improved NBC system, slightly different access panels to the engine and a new type of stowage rack on the back of the turret. The depleted uranium armor was added from 1987 onward and retrofitted on previously build tanks. The 'HA' in M1A1(HA) signifies a tank with uranium armor added (Heavy Armor), but this is standard now so the suffix HA is sort of redundant. A final change on the outside is a round plate bolted on to the turret in front of the loaders hatch. This is locks off a hole in the turret where an additional target finder can be added. The US Marines also use the M1A1 Abrams which has a slightly different smoke grenade launcher as the army version. This version os fitted on the tank in the last picture of the paragraph. On the picture below the differences between the turrets of the M1 and M1A1 can be clearly seen. The addition of the extra armor makes the turret noticeably longer.
  1. 105mm gun upgraded to a 120mm gun.
  2. Depleted uranium armor added.
  3. Provisions for the installation of an extra target finder.
  4. Larger side stowage boxes.
  5. Lager rear stowage rack
  6. Two identical blast doors rather then 3 different ones.
On the photo's below M1A1's note the track pads on the later pictures are of the square types rather then chevrons.

A step beyond standard: The M1A2 Abrams

After the introduction of the M1A1(HA) Abrams in 1985 the development of military technology didn't halt. The next large round of improvements was added in the M1A2 version of the tank introduced in the 2000's. The new technology focused on adding improved sensors and improved computer systems. The biggest difference with the M1A1 on the outside is the addition of the extra sensors on the spot in front of the loaders hatch and the auxiliary power unit on the back of the turret. Most Abrams tanks nowadays have the T158 tracks with square track pads but earlier M1A2's also drove around with the T156 trackpads with a chevron pattern. About 1200 M1A2's are in service with the US Army. The bulk is painted in Desert yellow but a few have had a 3 color NATO color scheme. Below some photo's of the real vehicle, on the first photo Chevron tracks are featured:

A new layer of protection: TUSK I and TUSK II

TUSK is the acronym for 'Tank Urban survival Kit'. Fighting in a city environment is always difficult for infantry, cavalry and airforces. There are numerous places to hide in the concrete jungle and fire weapons from all directions and at close range. This requires extra armor on the sides, bottom, rear and top of armored vehicles. Often support to infantry has to be given with machine guns but crawling out of the hatch makes this risky because enemy snipers have plenty of the rooftops with excellent sight to shoot from. To counter these problems TUSK has been developed. These upgrade packages feature CROWS (Common Remotely Operated Weapon Stations) which are machine guns with camera's that can be controlled from within the tank and ERA (explosive Reactive Armor) for the hull. The underside of the hull is also protected with an extra layer of armor. The TUSK II package has an extra layer of 'tiles' over the ERA and also for the turret. This makes the tank very heavy though (70.000.000 kg). The TUSK I and II is made to be removable. On the first picture an Australian Abrams Tank with the TUSK I armor. On the second picture a M1A2 with TUSK II.

In high demand: Export variants

The Abrams was not an export success until very recently. Maroc, Saudi Arabia, Irak, Egypt and Australia all have bought or are looking to buy M1 Abrams tanks. All export versions can differ in armor and electronics. One example of an export version is the M1 AIM for Australia. It has downgraded armor (no depleted uranium) and no extra target finder. But it has very new electronics and the auxiliary power plant on the back of the turret.

A safe path: The Panther II mine clearer

To replace deal with mines a regular Abrams tank can be fitted with a mine roller or mine plough. A handful of Abrams tanks have their turret removed and the hole covered with an sort of roof with a hatch, smoke grenade launchers and machine gun. On the front the mine roller or mine plough can be fitted making these vehicles dedicated mine sweepers. There is one that is entirely remote controlled.

A bear on the road: Grizzy CMV

The Grizzly is a Combat Mobility Vehicle based on the Abrams tank. A single prototype was build.

Bridging a divide: The M104 Wolverine bridgelayer

The Abrams is a heavy and fast tank. A bit to heavy to conveniently drive over the bridge a Patton tank based bridgelayer can deploy. In addition the M60 Bridge layer is to slow to keep up with the Abrams so a new bridge payer was developed as the M104 Wolverine. This is basically a M1A2 with the turret removed and replaced by a Leguan bridgelaying system able to deploy a bridge in 3 to 5 minutes. 44 vehicles have been build so far.

Demining at the next level: M1150 ABV

The latest addition is the Abrams family is the M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle. This vehicle is developed by the US Marine Corp to create a pathway trough minefields really fast. It is equipped with a extra large mine plough, jamming devices to disrupt remotely ignited mines and 'missile' that carries a line of explosives. The missile carries the line in a certain direction where it is dropped. On the line are explosives and these detonate. This sends a shock wave trough the ground detonating mines in the area in it's turn. At present about 35 ABV's are in use.
Here a video of the ABV:

Friday, 3 August 2018

First of the line: The M1 Abrams

It's Abramania August on miniature army! Every few days an article on a version of the Abrams tank. The blogs are posted all at once with the first to read placed at the latest date so that when scrolling through the blog from present to past the blogs appear in a logical order. Today: The M1 Abrams

The Hasegawa model

Both Italeri and Hasegawa make a model of the M1 Abrams in 1/72 scale. I build the Hasegawa model (Kit. No. MT33) which can be seen as a 'fast build' model. The tracks are made made out of several pieces of hard plastic, all wheels and suspension are molded as one part per side. The total part count is close to 40 and a crew figure is included, a very welcome addition! Despite the low part count the model is detailed and fun to build. Decals are provided but I didn't use any. The most difficult part of the build are the tracks. You need to make cut's where pieces of the tracks need to be bend into a curve but the plastic is very hard so this is difficult. I also had trouble getting the tracks around the idler wheel but solved that by cutting off the left and right most outer pieces. The model has two inaccuracies; the rear lifting eyes are not molded on and the rear stowage rack is made out of 'tubes' rather then 'bars'. I painted my tank with a red desert MERDC scheme. Although this scheme was phased out it was applied to M1's as can be seen in the picture above on which the camo of my model is based. Off all Abrams variants the M1 has spotted the most extravagant color scheme's and marking options.

The photo's:

This is a very nice and easy to build model of the M1 Abrams and available at Hobby Link Japan for quite a low price. Recommended for all modelers. The inclusion of a figure is a very welcome bonus!

Next step: The M1E1 Abrams

It's Abramania August on miniature army! Every few days an article on a version of the Abrams tank. The blogs are posted all at once with the first to read placed at the latest date so that when scrolling through the blog from present to past the blogs appear in a logical order. Today: The M1E1 Abrams

The Hasegawa model

Hasegawa makes a model of the M1E1 tank (Kit No. MT35), most the noticeable difference between the M1 and M1E1 is the larger gun, extra armor added to the front and new bast doors above the ammunition storage. This Hasegawa seems to be based on a prototype that drove around with some improvised armor in 1984. Hasegawa made a model of this prototype rather then the actual M1A1 introduced in 1985. The hull is the same as the M1 model. The M1E1 is made only in green. On to the photo's!

Like the M1 the tracks and wheels are simplified greatly reducing the part count but it doesn't sacrifice detail. Where the tracks have to bend around the drive and idler sprockets the have to be cut which is difficult just as with the M1 model.