Strong Tank

I’ve been a fan of the Army’s M1 Abrams tank since I was a kid. Most kids were reading comic books or baseball magazines; I was reading about U.S. and Soviet tank designs (I was a strange kid). Here’s an interesting site with pictures titled “M1A1 Abrams Lessons Learned During Iraq War 2003”. Here is the original powerpoint. One interesting outtake was the destruction of an abandoned M1 to not compromise the vehicle and/or technology. According to them it:

“Took one thermite grenade, one sabot in turret ammunition compartment, and two Maverick missiles to finally destroy the tank”.

Strong tank.

Update: The armor on the M1 is Chobham armor. Here is a brief description of it from

“Chobham armour is a composite armour developed at the British tank research centre on Chobham Common. Although the exact composition of Chobham armour remains a secret, it appears to be a combination of ceramic layered between armour steel plating, a combination that is excellent at defeating high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. Possible ceramics for such armours are: Boron carbide, Silicon carbide, Aluminium oxide (Sapphire), or Titanium boride.

The exact nature of the protection offered by this layering remained a mystery for some time, but it was eventually revealed that Chobham armour works in a manner somewhat similar to reactive armour. When the armour is hit by a HEAT round the ceramic layer shatters under the impact point, forming a dust under high pressure. When the HEAT round “burns through” the outer layers of armour and reaches the ceramic, the dust comes flying back out the hole, slowing the jet of metal.

Modern tanks also have to face KE-penetrator rounds of various sorts, which the ceramic layer is not particularly effective against. For this reason many modern designs include additional layers of heavy metals to add more density to the overall armor package. The metal used appears to be either tungsten or, in the case of later M1 Abrams tanks, depleted uranium.

The effectiveness of Chobham armour was demonstrated in the first Gulf War, where no Coalition tank was destroyed by the obsolete Iraqi armor. In some cases the tanks in question were subject to multiple point-blank hits by both KE-penetrators and HEAT rounds, but the old Russian ammunition used by the Iraqis, in their Polish licence built T-72’s, their old T-55’s bought from Russia and upgraded with “enigma” type armour, and T-62 tanks left them completely incapable of penetrating coalition armour. It’s also worth noting that the Iraqis rarely actually hit the coalition tanks, because of lack of training and inferior optics. To date, only 5-10 Chobham-protected tanks have been defeated by enemy fire in combat, including an M1 that was hit by an RPG-7 in the Second Gulf War; no crewmembers of either the M1 or Britain’s Challenger II have been killed as a result of armour penetration.

The latest version of Chobham armour is used on the Challenger II (called Dorchester armour), and (though the composition most probably differs) the M1 Abrams series of tanks. Though it is often claimed to be otherwise, the Leopard II does not in fact use Chobham armour.”

18 thoughts on “Strong Tank”

  1. I’m under the impression that the armor was developed by a British firm. (In which case I guess I should spell it ‘armour’. Don’t know if contains any ‘aluminium’, which is apparently an element found only in the British isles, like Marmite).

  2. Dammit.

    I was going to refer you all to the “Home Despot” parody site for your M1 shopping needs, but apparently it’s vanished.

    I believe the LeoII uses “Chobham type” armour, which given it’s looks, seems likely.

  3. All modern Western (and for that matter, Russian) tanks use some sort of composite armor, which is more or less an arrangement of steel plates with a gap between a front and rear plate filled with ceramics and other exotic materials. Later versions of the M1A1 and now A2 are supposed to have depleted uranium as part of the protective mix. In any case, the exact composition is classified. That type of armor was developed at Chobham first by the British so the name has stuck to armor of this type.
    You can take it to the bank that the Leo II has composite armor.

  4. BTW, the crew survivability of Western tanks depends on much more than just the armor: spall liners on the inside armor surface, automatic fire suppression systems, and armor and fuel compartmentalization designed to direct the blast from secondary explosions away from the crew compartment and out of the vehicle.

  5. I’ve always thought the Leopard 2’s new angled armor is shaped funny. The top angle is logical , but the bottom angle into the hull looks like it can act as a shot trap. But it must be there for a reason.

    As a side note, the Germans seem to like to name their tanks after cats: Tiger, Panther, Tiger 2, Leopard, Leopard 2.

    Western tank designers seem to give more thought to crew survivability. The frying pan turret designs like the T-72/64/55 haven’t really changed since WW2, just in shape. Since they don’t compartamentalize their ammo, it’s probably why most pictures you see of destroyed Iraqi tanks have the turret blown clear off. After a hit, the interior catches fire, and the main gun ammunition detonates. Sucks to be the crew of those tanks.

  6. i’ve read a proposal from one of the student in university in malaysia about a type of armour that use the combination of Carbon and aluminium form under extreme heat.

  7. Chobham and Dorchester Armour is only manufactured in one place – Cyclops Works in Sheffield, England. They are made in batches of 5 sheets. For every 5 sheets made they destroy at least 3 in testing it’s strength. If one sheet fails – the whole batch is destroyed. This level of quality control is why such tanks as the Abrams and Challenger can stand up to such a beating. As provel by the Abrams in the Thunder Run battle for Baghdad. In fact thoughout the history of armoured warfare no tank has ever endured that level of pounding without failure. However, it would be interesting to know how they would have survived had the Iraqi’a had modern weapons like LAW and TOW.

  8. surely a tank’s critical function in battle lies in it’s may have state-of-the-art reactive composite armour to protect the crew and the vehicle as a whole..but what about it’s tracks?? if you could score a hit against these with something like an RPG and get the vehicle to shed a track, then you immobilize the vehicle and i doubt you’d get many volunteers to go outside with a toolbox..

  9. “Yes, and he credited and linked the source too. So?”

    No he didnt as the composition of Chobham armour is secret and only the British MoD knows what the composition is it was never released to the US Army as far as i know.

    The M1 Abrams is according to official sources presently protected by silicon carbide tiles.

    The below part was edited in and is untrue its no where stated on

    “To date, only 5-10 Chobham-protected tanks have been defeated by enemy fire in combat, including an M1 that was hit by an RPG-7 in the Second Gulf War; no crewmembers of either the M1 or Britain’s Challenger II have been killed as a result of armour penetration.”

    Check for you’re self.

  10. Wikipedia is constantly edited. This entry was originally posted a year and a half ago, back in November 2004. Wikipedia has most likely changed between then and now. What is the end result you are looking for?

  11. I thought that would be obvious to set the facts straight and stop miss information spreading it was maybe posted one and half years ago but never the less its still incorrrect and i was _still_ referred to this website regarding information on the M1A1 by google on its first search page at least people that view this topic in the future will not go away thinking the M1A1 is protected with Chobham armour…..

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