Whispering Death: The Story of the M1 Abrams Tank

The 1980s was a decade of both exhilaration and trepidation. Americans were shaking off the effects of Vietnam and Watergate and rediscovering patriotism. Personal promised a new information era. And, last but by no means least, disco and the leisure suit were both finally dead. At the same time, America’s primary enemy, the Soviet Union, was alive and well. Whereas today people worry about isolated terrorist gangs and spree shootings, in those days the big concern was that the Russians would invade West Germany. The result, of course, would be nuclear obliteration. Such was daily life in the days before Gorbachev. To counter this ever-present threat, the US military began upgrading its weapon systems in the late 70s and early 80s. As part of this program, the Army introduced a new main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, in 1980. RELATED: Chivalry is Dead, How the Tank Transformed Warfare From its beginning, the M1 had more than its share of critics. Detractors pointed out its technological complexity, massive fuel consumption, and gargantuan size. Naysayers worried that the new vehicle would prove to be a dud on the battlefield. Defense planners, however, kept their faith in the new machine, adding 3273 units to the armed forces by 1985. Despite its perceived flaws, the M1 had some indisputable strength. It was fast, at least by tank standards, with a top highway speed of 60 mph (45 mph over extended distances). It was armed with a 105 mm rifled cannon that gave the crew immense firepower. Beginning in 1986, developers upgraded the main weapon to a 124 mm German-made smoothbore cannon. The tank was also equipped with three machine guns: a 50 caliber mounted in front of the commander’ s hatch, a 7.62 mm in front of the loader’s hatch, and a second 7.62 mm to the right of the main gun. RELATED: GuardBot Robot Ball Could be the Military's Next Drone But perhaps most impressive of all was the M1’s armor. Built from overlapping layers of ceramics, steel, Kevlar, and plastic components, it was designed to shrug off the effects of most anti-tank rounds. Beginning in 1987, builders began incorporating depleted uranium (DU) into the turret and hull. The M1 is powered by a gas turbine engine that accepts multiple types of fuel, including gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. The engine has long been the main sticking point of the tank’s critics. With a fuel consumption rate of 1.67 gallons per mile, the Abrams is no Prius. It burns 10 gallons per hour while idling. Amazingly, this brute of a power plant is remarkably quiet when compared to diesel engines with the same capabilities. This fact has earned the M1 the nickname “Whispering Death.” Debates about the tank’s pros and cons continued until the United States entered the Persian Gulf War in 1991. During that conflict, the military deployed a total of 1848 M1s to Saudi Arabia to assist in Kuwait’s liberation. On the battlefield they came had-to-head with Soviet-built T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks. RELATED: Buy This High-Speed Military Catamaran for Just $180,000 The results were, to say the least, impressive. The Abrams decimated its opponents while suffering virtually no casualties of its own. Its 2500 m+ kill range gave it the power to destroy Iraqi tanks well before the enemy got close enough to fire. During Desert Storm, only nine M1 tanks were destroyed. Reports indicate that, in each case, this was due to either friendly fire or to prevent the vehicle from falling into enemy hands. The second Gulf war produced similar effects. In one case, a single Abrams tank destroyed seven T-72s in a tussle about 18 miles south of Baghdad. The M1’s performance in the blazing desert heat of Iraq and Kuwait was more than enough to silence its critics. From that point on, observers have regarded both the original M1 and its upgraded versions as among the finest mobile weapons in service today. The tank nicknamed “Whispering Death” has earned its honored place in military history. It will continue to serve its country with distinction for many years to come. RELATED: The Panzerkampfwagen Was German's 'Over-Engineered' Tank ____________________________________ Click Here to Read the Original Article on BoldRide