It would not survive on today’s battlefield. According to Defense News, the US Army has cancelled its planned upgrade of the Abrams Tank and is considering a different approach for the tank’s future. The Army is basically saying the tank is too heavy and too vulnerable to enemy weapons, confirms Stephen Bryen, a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and is a leading expert in security strategy and technology.
Heavy European tanks and armored vehicles have faced operational problems in Ukraine, often getting stuck in the mud or running out of fuel. In addition, European tanks have proven vulnerable to enemy fire. Many of the Leopard tanks – a tank that was considered superior to the Abrams – has not performed well. The Russians have already destroyed around 15 Leopards, using a variety of weapons ranging from artillery, to rockets launched by helicopters, to drones such as the Lancet. Billed as the next great thing to help Ukraine win the war, Leopard has proven a failure.
Unfortunately what happened to Leopard could happen to Abrams tanks when they arrive in Ukraine.
Neither the Abrams nor the Leopards have active protection systems or reactive armor. In the case of those Leopards delivered to Ukraine, the Ukrainian army hastily plastered on reactive armor taken off of damaged Russian tanks.
Leopard was not supposed to need reactive armor because its composite armor is supposed to deflect anti-tank weapons including penetrator canon rounds fired by opposing tanks or tandem warhead weapons. But even with first generation reactive armor that the Ukrainians added to Leopard, the Russians destroyed them fairly easily.
One of the reasons the US is supplying depleted uranium (DU) shells to Ukraine for the soon-to-arrive Abrams tanks is that DU shells are supposed to be able to penetrate any Russian tank. At least so far Russian tactics are such that its tanks are rarely exposed to counter-tank fire, at least in the current Russian active defense approach against the Ukrainian counter-offensive. However, if Russia goes on the offensive, the situation may change and Russian tanks could be exposed to fire from Abrams tanks.
Whether the DU and Abram’s combination turns out to be effective. US tanks, like their Leopard counterpart, still lack active defenses.
The war in Ukraine has opened eyes about modern tank warfare and tank survivability. Whether the Army’s decision to look for a different set of solutions will be successful, no one can say. But the fact that the US Army now recognizes that it needs to change direction is a sensible reaction to what has been revealed on the Ukraine battlefield.