The M1A1 Abrams is a main battle tank designed and built by the United States during the Cold War. Development of the M1 Abrams series of tanks began in the early 1970’s. The initial M1 Abrams was equipped with a 105mm gun and advanced “Chobham” armor. Chobham armor is a mix of metal plates, ceramic blocks, and open space that can defeat armor piercing weapons. Production of the M1 began in 1979 and ended in 1985.
The M1A1 began production in 1986. An up-gunned and up-armored version of the M1, it’s main armament is the M256 120mm smoothbore gun, which was originally developed by Rheinmetall for the West German Leopard 2 main battle tank. The armor layout was upgraded with the inclusion of depleted uranium and other classified materials.
The M1A1 first saw combat in Operation Desert Storm in January 1991, where Iraqi armor consisting of Soviet built T-54/55, T-62, and T-72 tanks proved no match. The M1A1 was able to engage targets beyond 2,500 meters which was significantly greater than the range of the Iraqi tank guns.
In 2003, the M1A1 was the primary U.S. tank used during the U.S. invasion of Iraq where again they helped to overrun the Iraqi defenses. During the insurgency that followed the invasion, the Abrams was used extensively in urban combat by U.S. forces and later, by U.S. supported Iraqi forces.
This M1A1 Abrams was attached to A Co., 2nd Tank Battalion, United States Marine Corps. On August 3, 2006 while patrolling outside of Fallujah, Iraq, it was struck by an IED(Improvised Explosive Device). The IED caused damage to the right side of the vehicle. Shrapnel from the explosion fatally wounded the tank commander George Ulloa. The surviving crew – Travis Marcum (gunner), Nick Johns (loader) and Nathan Hall (driver) came to the American Heritage Museum with Mike Kadlub (platoon Sargent) and Erick Pfafflin (White 1 tank just behind White 2) to talk about that fateful day on August 3rd, 2006. A compelling and emotional interview was captured during a reunion at the Museum and is on display next to their tank.
This M1A1 Abrams is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Marine Corps and is the only modern A1 on public display in the world.