National Security

US General Admits Main Battle Tank No Longer Dominant

Army photo by Patrick A. Albright

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Several foreign battle tanks can now challenge the U.S. M1 Abrams battle tank, according to a U.S. Army general.

Lt. Gen. John Murray, the deputy chief of staff for financial management, told Congress the 37-year-old Abrams is still capable, but may no longer be superior to similar foreign platforms.

“I think for the very near term, the Abrams is still near the very top of its class,” said Murray, while testifying before the Senate Committee on Armed Services last week.

While the Abrams may no longer be superior, Murray was careful to note that that does not make it obsolete.

“I think we have parity,” said Murray. “I think there is parity out there. I don’t think we have overmatch.”

Murray listed several foreign tanks which are at least competitive with the Abrams, including the Israeli Merkava and the British Challenger 2. He also noted the Russian T-90 is “probably pretty close.” The general said the new Russian Armata has become a popular conversation topic, but is not completely fielded.

“I would not say that we have the world-class tank that we had for many, many years,” said Murray. “I’ll be an optimist and say that we’re at parity with a lot of different nations.”

The Abrams was once considered practically invincible. It’s depleted uranium Chobham armor was state of the art when it was released, however, the U.S. invasion of Iraq proved the tank could be defeated.

While foreign countries have bettered their tanks, the U.S. continued to improve upon the Abrams. For many years, there was no reason to replace it, considering its only competitors belonged to allied nations. Russian tanks are the most likely competitors, but as Murray noted, the T-90 is not at the level of the Abrams.

The Russian T-14 Armata battle tank may be the first legitimate contender to the Abrams. National Interest staff explained in a piece last year, “Russia’s Armata family of armored combat vehicles is a departure from the previous Soviet practice of developing relatively simple, inexpensive but specialized platforms.”

The Armata features several new innovations, including an unmanned turret, which separates crew from ammunition, combined laminated and reactive armor and an active protection system that can theoretically intercept incoming rounds. The unmanned turret may also prove to be a disadvantage, though, as the crew is entirely reliant on sensor systems which could be damaged.

Improvements to the Abrams, such as guided projectiles with a range of 12,000 meters, are also being made. If the general is correct, the U.S. may have to explore other avenues to maintain armor superiority as Russian aggression in Europe continues.

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