The other 28 M-1s keep fighting

Tuesday, March 19th, 2024

David Axe explains how the Russians are taking out Ukraine’s M-1 Abrams tanks:

The 47th [Brigade] lost its first M-1 on or before Feb. 26, when a Russian first-person-view drone struck the tank’s ammunition compartment and sparked a fire that ultimately destroyed it. It’s possible the blast door that normally would prevent flames from entering the compartment—and cooking off the 120-millimeter main gun ammo—was open at the time of the strike, but it’s hard to say for sure.

The second Abrams got knocked out on or before March 3—this time reportedly by a Kornet laser-guided anti-tank missile that hit the relatively thinly-protected side of the tank’s hull and passed right through the attached M-19 explosive reactive armor. Kornets have tandem warheads: the first charge clears the armor; the second explodes inside the tank.

A second missile struck the turret, followed by an FPV drone, but it was the first missile—and the blaze resulting from its impact—that did in the 69-ton M-1.

The third confirmed Abrams loss, a week after the second, apparently also resulted from an anti-tank missile strike, which sparked a fire that cooked off the main gun rounds in the ammo compartment. The blast doors and the compartment’s exterior blowout panel must have failed.

A laser-detection system may have saved the two Abrams that fell victim to Kornets or similar missiles. But it wouldn’t have prevented the other loss. Nor would it prevent what’s almost certain to happen in the coming weeks and months as the war grinds on and the other 28 M-1s keep fighting: losses to mines, artillery and possibly even other tanks.


  1. Graf von Zeppelin says:

    Abrams entered service in 1980. I bet the Soviets had its blueprints before the design was finished. The Soviets spent at least a decade working out ways to kill Abrams in battle and Russians then worked on it for another 30 years. The Kornet ATGM was specifically intended to defeat Abrams.

    Other than a couple of Abrams tanks disabled by Iraqis in 2003, Kornet hasn’t had a real battle test. I imagine that an ideal test would be against a small number of Abrams tanks, say two dozen, in an area of Russian air superiority, close enough to Russia so that the disabled tanks could be towed away for inspection. Wouldn’t that be a boon for the Russians. They could perfect their anti-Abrams weaponry in a limited engagement and get ready to face them in large numbers in a big war. Of course, America would never be so stupid to let such a test happen. Oh wait.

  2. McChuck says:

    The ammunition gate inside the turret automatically closes, unless you deliberately lock it open. So, what we have here is one of two scenarios:
    1) Poor training of the tank crews.
    2) Deliberate sabotage by the US so the tanks are less likely to be captured relatively intact.

  3. Bob Sykes says:

    A T-72 has already taken out an Abrams with an ATGM. All Russian tanks can fire ATGM’s from their main gun, which gives the Russian tank overreach against US/NATO armor.

    Tanks, aircraft carriers and other modern weapons are very dangerous, and militaries everywhere have spent huge sums of money developing counter measures. Many of these are being used for the first time, and Russia and US/NATO are having to develop new tactics.

    In any event, the US/NATO weapons are merely slowing Russia’s advance. Current comments by Russia’s leaders indicate they will impose a demilitarized zone in Ukraine all the way to the Polish border. They also will seize the entire Ukrainian Black Sea coast, which is necesary if they are to keep the Sevastopol naval base.

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