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The M1 Abrams, Still Worth It?

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Peter Diaz                                                                           19 April 2017

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The M1 Abrams, Still Worth It?

        For 6 years, the army has called for no more M1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs).  General Raymond T. Odierno first brought this issue to Congress’s attention in 2012, saying that ceasing tank production could save the government as much $3 billion, pointing to the perfectly functioning 6,000 strong military tank fleet and the 2,000 unused Abrams sitting in a Nevada depot to support his argument.  Despite this, Congress has vehemently resisted change and continues allocating roughly $170 million each year to buying new tanks, spare parts, and upgrades for older models.  With the army and government fighting over the importance of new vehicles, it is important for us to consider this national security issue and ask if the Abrams is still worth it?

Since 1980, the General Dynamics Lima Tank Plant has built over 10,000 Abrams.  Once you consider this, it becomes obvious why politicians fight the army with such ferocity.  Shutting down the Lima Plant would not just affect its small Ohio county or even the state, but also countless jobs and businesses across the country involved in producing and transporting materials for building Abrams.  GD says that keeping the plant open is the cheaper option compared to shutting it down and reopening it later.  Additionally, they argue that, as the sole maker of U.S. tanks, they should continue production in case some wartime disaster necessitates more vehicles.

        However, with its 40th birthday approaching, saving money might not be the only reason the U.S. needs to stop building Abrams.  With the introduction of its new MBT, the T-14 Armata, Russia possesses the newest MBT in the world.  Requiring only three crew and capable of defeating up to 900 mm of penetration, perhaps the most attractive point of this tank is its $3.7 million cost, under half the price of an Abrams.  Israel’s Merkava IV also boasts a similar price and comparable characteristics to the M1 while also proving itself in action during this decade.  Iran’s Karrar, China’s MBT2000, and South Korea’s K2 all pose new battlefield possibilities and technical innovations that must be considered when reviewing the Abram’s capability for national defense.  


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