The M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) is the namesake of the late General Creighton W. Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and commander of the 37th Armored Battalion. It is the backbone of the armored forces of the United States military, and several of US allies as well. The purpose of this vehicle is to provide mobile firepower for armored formations of sufficient capability to successfully close with and destroy any opposing armored fighting vehicle in the world, while providing protection for its crew in any conceivable combat environment. It is capable of engaging the enemy in any weather, day or night on the multi-dimensional, non-linear battlefield using its firepower, manuever, and shock effect. The Abrams Tank System synchronizes its high tempo, distributed manuever via its digitized situational awareness and the fusion of onboard and remote battlefield sensors.
Production of M1A1 tanks for the US Army is complete. Over 8,800 M1 and M1A1 tanks have been produced for the US Army and Marine Corps, and the armies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Production of new M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams tanks is in its final phase for Foreign Military Sales. Three versions of the Abrams tank are currently in service the original M1 model, dating from the early 1980s, and two newer versions, designated M1A1 and M1A2. The M1A1 series, produced from 1985 through 1993, replaced the M1 105mm main gun with a 120mm gun and incorporated numerous other enhancements, including an improved suspension, a new turret, increased armor protection, and a nuclear-chemical-biological protection system. The newer M1A2 series includes all of the M1A1 features plus a commanders independent thermal viewer, an independent commanders weapon station, position navigation equipment, and a digital data bus and radio interface unit providing a common picture among M1A2s on the battlefield.
In lieu of new production, the Army is upgrading approximately 1,000 older M1 tanks to the M1A2 configuration. The Army also initiated a modification program for the M1A2 to enhance its digital command and control capabilities and to add the second generation forward looking infrared (FLIR) sights to improve the tanks fightability and lethality during limited visibility. This system enhancement program will be fielded in the 2000 time frame concurrently with the M2A3 Bradley and other advanced digital systems. The initial M1A2 fielding to the First Calvary Division, Ft. Hood, TX, is underway. The Army will continue to field M1A2s to the CONUS contingency corps and other first to fight units into the next decade.