Challenger vs. Abrams


In the Top Gear episode I was watching last night, Jeremy Clarkson was testing the Range Rover Sport. In a typical Top Gear challenge, he took it off road while being pursued by a Challenger II tank. (Clip below)

During the set-up, Clarkson noted:

“The thing I’m interesting most interested in, though, is the big gun, which, as you can see is rifled for greater accuracy. Unlike those smoothbore American ones, which just hit something [pauses and waves off at the distance,dismissively] over there.”

U.S. Marine M1A1 Abrams

Marine M1A1 Abrams

What an idiot.

I happen to like both the Challenger 2 and the Leopard 2 quite a bit. I don’t really know which would “win” an equal tank-on-tank battle if all else (particularly crew capability) was equal. I’d have trouble betting against the latest M1s, though.

But I am confident that the dismissal of the smoothbore M1 gun is complete bollocks, as they say.

Anyway, he might be interested to know that the Challenger 2 is finally going to be upgraded to a 120mm smothbore, though I think they’re having budget issues and I don’t know the status of this program. I think it’s supposed to be the L/55 gun, which has a slightly longer barrel than the L/44-based M256 on M1s.

Via Instapundit.


  1. I kind of understand Clarkson’s point of view. When I found out about the M1A1’s using smoothbores I went “huh?”

    So I spent about 3 minutes on Google discovering the advantages of a smoothbore barrel for an MBT, such as the increased variety of rounds available to be sent through it. I also discovered that in the ranges usually required of an MBT, smoothbore’s provide no real downgrade in accuracy.

    “Wow, that’s cool, I thought. Learn something new and all that.”

    Now I’m learning that I’m more willing than a guy on TV is to use Google. Good to know.

  2. Well, Top Gear is first and foremost an entertainment show, and the best automotive one on TV at that. Clarkson has an established pro-British reputation, so that is the sort of thing he would say.

    The 120 rifled on the Challenger is a good gun, and I believe a Challenger crew still holds the long-distance record for a tank-on-tank kill at 5000 meters — but it was from a 3-round burst-on-target volley of HESH, not a KE shot — during Desert Storm.

    The development of 120mm rifled ammo just hasn’t kept up, and today the real lethality in the Abrams fleet is the ammo and fire control, not the particular cannon configuration. Improvements in 120mm smoothbore tank ammo are one of the reasons the M1A2 still has a 120mm main gun, instead of the 140mm gun that was originally being considered for that generation — there was just no need to increase cannon size when capability could be developed through other means.

    A next generation ammo suite is in development, so it’s smart for the UK to switch to 120mm smoothbore to be able to share in the ammunition improvements.

  3. Can’t really blame a Brit for thinking rifling is always a good thing. That’s probably been a sore spot for them for 230 years or so!

    One of my favorite artifacts is a .75 cal round ball I found on my land last summer. It must have really sucked when they did manage to hit you with one of those things.

  4. Clarkson has a reflexive anti-American thing that I find really annoying. It seems lame when he refers to you as “septics”. He also clearly ranks British car brands above others even when they’re not as good. For example in the Ferrari vs. Aston Martin comparison he admits the Ferrari is the better car but says he would still buy the Aston Martin because it looks better or something?!

    Anyway it’s best to just ignore him when he has these little moments.

    By the way an L/55 barrel is going to be 25% longer than an L/44 barrel for the same calibre. L/55 means it’s 55 times in calibre in length, L/44 means it’s 44 times. So an L/55 120mm is 6.6m or about 22 feet long.

    1. Well, first and foremost, its a British Automotive Show. And since they switched formats to a more…entertaining way, I’ve liked it even though I know next to nothing about cars.

      And true, he has his sentiments, but I believe in some of the supercar episodes he prefers to use a Mustang. It all depends on what they’re doing anyways.

    2. Re: “Septics”

      My brother got me a book written by a friend of his called “The Septic’s Companion” which is a tongue-in-cheek explanation of British English slang for Americans. It’s hilarious.

      Highly recommended.

      UPDATE: Wow. The Septic’s Companion has a website:

  5. If you’re looking for a comrehensive comparison between the M1A2 “Abe” and the “Chally 2”, I’ve got your data fix;

    Top Speed: 42mph — 37mph
    Combat Weight: 72 tons — 69 tons
    Range: 298 miles — 279 miles
    Power/weight: 21.4hp/ton — 17.3hp/ton
    Min. Turn Radius: Pivot — Pivot
    Suspension: Torsion Bars — Hydropneumatic Torsion Bars
    Ground Pressure: 15.5psi — 12.8psi
    Clearance: 19in — 19.6in
    Gradient: 60% — 60%
    Side Slope: 40% — 30%
    Vertical Obstacle: 48.96in — 35.4in
    Trench: 9ft — 7.6ft
    Fording: 4ft — 3.5ft
    Transmission: Automatic, 4 forward, 2 reverse — Automatic, 6 forward, 2 reverse
    Engine: 1500hp Gas Turbine —1200hp Diesel V12
    External Fuel: No — Yes

    M1A2 advantages: 9
    Challenger 2 advantages: 6
    Little or no difference: 2
    Winner: M1A2

    Main Gun: Smoothbore 120mm/44, 12rpm — Rifled 120mm/55, 12rpm
    Main Gun Ammo: 40 — 50
    Main Gun Rounds: APFSFS, HEAT, MP-AT, HE-OR, Canister — APFSDS, HESH*, Smoke*
    Indirect Fire Ability: No — Yes
    Coaxial Gun: 7.62mm, 700rpm — 7.62mm, 700rpm
    Secondary Gun Ammo: 10000rds, loaded — 4200rds, loaded
    Roof Gun: 12.7mm, 400rpm — 12.7mm, 400rpm
    Roof Gun Ammo: 200rds, loaded — 200rds, loaded
    Missile(s): None — None
    Missile Capacity: N/A — N/A
    Gun Elevation: +20 — +20
    Gun Depression: -10 — -10
    (*: The versatility of HESH and Smoke represent a firepower advantage for the Challenger 2, despite the M1’s larger variety of munitions)

    M1A2 advantages: 1
    Challenger 2 advantages: 4
    Little or no difference: 7
    Winner: Challenger 2

    Armor Type: Laminated RHA Steel + DU* — Laminated Chobham Steel
    Spall Liners: Yes — Yes
    Flammable Fuel: Yes — No
    Fire Extinguisher: Halon — Halon
    Blow-off Panels: Yes — Yes
    Ammo Compartment: Yes — Yes
    V-Hull: No — No
    APS: No — No
    ERA: No — No
    Escape Hatch: No — No
    (*: Due to the toxicity, and trace radioactivity of DU, coupled with it’s violent pyrophoric effects when successfully penetrated — coupled with the fact the primary threat the MBT is the Shaped Charge, which easily-molten Heavy Metals only serve to accentuate the lethality of — the M1’s DU armor is considered a disadvantage)

    M1A2 advantages: None
    Challenger 2 advantages: 2
    Little or no difference: 8
    Winner: Challenger 2

    =====Crew Features=====
    Crew Capacity: 4 — 4
    Passenger Capacity: None — None
    Air Conditioning: No — No
    NBC System: Overpressure — Overpressure

    M1A2 advantages: None
    Challenger 2 advantages: None
    Little or no difference: All
    Winner: Draw

    Length: 32.25ft — 37.8ft
    Height: 9.47ft — 8.2ft
    Width: 12ft — 11.5ft
    Driver Optics: Night Vision — Night Vision
    TC Optics: TIS — TIS
    Gunner Optics: TIS — TIS
    Landline Cable Jack: No — No
    Tank-Infantry Telephone: No — Yes
    APU: Yes — Yes
    Top Speed: 42mph — 37mph
    Combat Weight: 72 tons — 69 tons
    Range: 298 miles — 279 miles

    M1A2 advantages: 3
    Challenger 2 advantages: 4
    Little or no difference: 5
    Winner: Challenger 2

    Fuel consumption: 8gpm — 3gpm
    Track Endurance: 1800 miles — 4000 miles?
    MMBF: 152 miles — ???*
    Average Main Tube Life: 400rds — 700rds?
    Main Tube Life in continuous combat: 50rds — 400rds
    Multi-Fuel: Yes — No
    Fuel endurance while idling: 8 hours — 50+ hours
    (*: The Challenger 2’s MMBF is claimed to be the highest of any operational MBT)

    M1A2 advantages: 1
    Challenger 2 advantages: 6
    Little or no difference: None
    Winner: Challenger 2

    Mine Plow: Compatible — Compatible
    Mine Roller: Compatible — Compatible
    Dozer Blade: Not compatible* — Compatible
    (*: The M1’s drivetrain — in the MBT variants — proved too fragile and anemic to push a Dozer Blade, so one was ever procured)

    M1A2 advantages: None
    Challenger 2 advantages: 1
    Little or no difference: 2
    Winner: Challenger 2

    =====Production & Development Factors=====
    Unit Cost: $10 Million — $7 Million
    Development Span: 10 years — 5 years
    Number Built: 750 — 386
    Number of users: 3 — 2

    M1A2 advantages: 2
    Challenger 2 advantages: 2
    Little or no difference: None
    Winner: Draw

    =====FINAL RESULT=====
    M1A2 wins: 1
    Challenger 2 wins: 5
    Draws: 2
    Best Tank: Challenger 2

    Categorically, in both quality and quantity, the Challenger 2 is superior to the M1A2 Abrams (5-to-1).

    What comes as a surprise though, is that the one thing that Jeremey Clarkson implied to be the Challenger 2’s greatest advantage (it’s Mobility) is actually it’s greatest weakness — even compared to the M1A2 Abrams, the heaviest production AFV in history.
    Previous British MBTs traded-off speed and range for a higher emphasis on other Mobility factors, but the Challenger 2’s Mobility exceeds at little.

    1. I am amused by your careful cherry picking.

      It’s about as silly as claiming a French tank is superior because it has more gears for reverse.

      The Challenger is a result of Parliament’s habit of expending lives to avoid expending treasure.

      1. The laws of physics and a complete technical data sheet aren’t cherry-picking — they’re fact.

        As for expending lives, how many Challenger 1 crews suffered casualties in ODS while 19 M1 crewmen (including a KIA) became casualties? None.

        There were no Challengers lost (nor even damaged) in Desert Storm, despite destroying twice their number of Iraqi tanks, while 19 M1s were knocked-out. Even the M60A1 fared better than the M1 — 2 broken tracks and no casualties, while killing 100 Iraqi tanks (including 5 T-72s, claimed 7 years earlier by Sen. Carl Levin to be “impossible” to destroy with M60s).

        Then you have the Invasion of Iraq, from which the US military itself reports that 151 M1s were lost — compared to a SINGLE Challenger 2. Over the next 3 years, only 2 Challenger 2s were knocked-out by the Insurgency, versus more than 80 M1s (that only outnumbered Challengers 2-to-1).

        1. first off-“yes” there were MORE M1 Abrams crew casualties, BUT that was because of the FACT that there were more M1s in combat than Challengers!!! Secondly just how many M1s were knocked out by enemy Tank fire? NONE- many of those U.S. KIAs were due to IEDs,snipers, and accidents.

          Is the Challenger better armored? “yes”,but not by much( the DU mixed armor holds up equally to its chobham counterpart in 95% of the threats BOTH will face in modern combat) but the Challenger is SLOWER, can’t cross terrain as well, and is far fewer in #s.Compare maintenance times, and the FACT that a M1 can run on low grade gas,as well as kerosene and diesel, you’ve got a more versatile MBT. If I were to challenge an M1, I’d want a Leopard II first, another M1 second, then a Challenger

      2. One other thing… a transmission with more reverse gears IS a substantial advantage, because it allows a stationary tank to rapidly fall back behind smoke and/or dust, without wasting time in a stationary position by turning the whole vehicle around. If you can to see them you can hit them, but the reverse is true as well.

        BTW, the Leclerc has the same number (two) of reverse gears as the M1 — and one EXTRA forward gear (five, total).

  6. The 105mm M1 won 1st and 2nd in 1985 and 1987 for the CENTAG CAT trophy. We’d never won before and we have not since; M1A1 units first competed in ’89 where we beat out by the Dutch and Germans in CENTAG and the Germans in NORTHAG.

    The Brits have not won since 1970.

    Of course, the last one was in 1991…

  7. All these comparisons where you seek to boil comparative qualities down to facts and figures are just internet fantasy devoid of any sense or grounding in reality.

    The fact is, they are pretty much the same and the only ‘latest generation’ tanks with a proven combat record in tank engagements. I know if I were facing either of them with a US or UK crew I would want to be elsewhere.

    Either of them are brilliant but they are a result of differing doctrine, industrial approaches, design heritage, a whole bunch of compromise and reflective of these.

    If you had to offer any sort of opinion, and I have listened to people who have been in both, is that the Challenger 2 has the edge in cross country mobility and protection with the Abrams offering better sensors and a wider range of ammunition natures (having said that everyone loves HESH)

    What other tank has taken out either an Abrams or CR2?

    These silly comparisons also assume that they operate in isolation, which of course the don’t. Supporting forces often make the difference.

    When all said and done, its not the specs that count but the quality of the crew and whilst you might get a bit of nationalistic banter, those that know, know that there is very little difference.

    As for Jeremy Clarkson, he is pro British Forces so do you really think he is going to say the Abrams is better, would a US presenter do the reverse?

    It’s called playing to the audience

    1. Making a blanket statement that smoothbore tank guns are inaccurate isn’t “playing to the audience.” It’s showing that you’re either ignorant or pretending to be.

      Sure, I expect him to play up the Brit tank at the expense of others. As you say, Americans would do the opposite.

      So how about “The M1 doesn’t waste energy on pointless crap like heating a tea kettle. While the Abrams is using thermal imaging to detect enemy tanks, the Challenger is using its power to heat water.

      Sure, maybe just sarcastic trash talk. But don’t expect not to get called on it.

      1. Its only a bit of light entertainment.

        Come on, do you think anyone takes him seriously, is any buyer of military hardware going to think, hold on, let not bother with that smoothbore gun because Jeremy Clarkson says so.

        Its just a bit of of light hearted banter, people need to see the funny side and lighten up a bit.

        As for the BV (Boiling Vessel) in all British armoured vehicles

        Do you know how important a cup of tea is :)

        1. You’re right. It is entertainment and I took a bit too much exception to the joke.

          FWIW, I wouldn’t want to go against any of the M1, Challenger 2, or Leo 2.

    2. “What other tank has taken out either an Abrams or CR2?”

      The only Challenger 2 that was ever destroyed by another tank was K-Killed by a HESH round from another Challenger 2;

      In Desert Storm, 5 (possibly 6) M1s were destroyed or heavily-damaged by Iraqi tank fire — more M1s were lost to this than to friendly fire from other M1s, or from RPGs and/or ATGMs;

      1. If the claims of losses for M1 are true, that every M1 was knocked out by friendly fire, then the M1 must have the worst FCS in the world. Because no other nation has thrased so many of their own tanks in battle.

        1. No one claims that the friendly fire was accidental. They hit what they were aiming at; the issue is misidentification. It is much more likely that the US simply has the most honest FF reporting system.

  8. Before one pushes too many buttons, one might check with the Natick Labs on their food prep device for the Abrams. And the comments on the Abrams 120mm need to remember that it is a Rheinmetall product; that the Chally and the Abrams use the same FCS computer, that the Abrams has Chobham armour but the Chally has Dorchester armour. And the rifle is somewhat more accurate than the smoothbore …

    And the answer to the question:


  9. @Blacktail: I think you misread the Wikipedia page on M1 losses in Desert Storm. The source footnote reads:

    “According to the Army’s Office of Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, 23 Abrams tanks were destroyed or damaged in the Persian Gulf area. Of the nine Abrams destroyed, seven were due to friendly fire, and two were intentionally destroyed to prevent capture after they became disabled. Other Abrams tanks were damaged by enemy fire, land mines, on-board fires, or to prevent capture after they became disabled.”

    Which means, reading the table, that the largest losses of Abrams were from friendly fire (note that all losses from DU rounds are blue-on-blue, though source M1/A10/etc cannot be determined from the table). It’s also worth noting that no crewmen were killed by enemy fire, the sole KIA being from a blue-on-blue event. Some of the tanks in that table are double-counted, as well — my battalion (2-69 AR, 197th Bde) lost one tank in the war, and it god stuck in the mud and had to be blown in place (after being shot by LTC Sanchez).

  10. And to get back to the comparison … both are excellent vehicles, obviously. I’d be careful about reading too much into either the vehicle statistics (which don’t say much about how well a tank can be fought and maintained, nor about the relative quality of crews) or the OIF/Op Tellec loss statistics. The significantly different operational areas and employment of US armored forces and the UK’s forces in both the invasion of Iraq and subsequent oeprations makes loss comparisons an apples-to-oranges proposition.

    Another method of comparison might be: who else has made the comparison and actually voted with their money?

    Let’s see:

    M1: US, Australia, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq
    Challenger 2: UK, Oman
    Leo 2: Germany, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Chile, Demark, Finland, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey

    1. It’s even more interesting when you look into the story *behind* the story of the M1’s procurement by these countries.

      Egypt: Bought M1s as a political kickback for the Camp David accords (which gave Egypt the Sinai Peninsula back and made their Eastern Frontier safe — don’t forget that Libya tried to invade Egypt in the late 1970s).

      Saudi Arabia: Acquired (but didn’t technically “buy”) M1s in exchange for cancellation of war debts to the US.

      Kuwait: Same as Saudi Arabia.

      Australia: Bought M1s because GDLS owned a lot of Australia’s defense sector, and greased Parliamentary palms better than the competitors did.

      Iraq: They became the 51st US state. Or maybe you think they pay for their own weapons and training?

      In 30 years of production and US service, the M1 found only FIVE foreign customers — compare to 15 buyers for the contemporary Leopard 2 inside the same time-frame, and 20+ buyers for the M60 Patton that preceded the M1.

      Funny isn’t it, how the tank which the US military and GDLS claim represents the Free World can’t seem to find even a single export customer on the Free Market?

      1. Blacktail- “you are funny!” thats the SAME LAME arguement from “haters” who complain about export sales of the F-16, and the F/A-18 superhornet( both are PROVEN successful in combat)!!! Sorry that Brits can’t push their iron monger produce as well, but the truth is in the “puddin'” ,Bro! If Country “B” sees Country “A” KICKING BUTT with a particular weapon system ,of course “B” country is gonna’ want it!!!

        You can WHINE all day, but this has turned into a “pud pulling contest”.As an American ,I’m going for the Abrams simply cause it is the EQUAL to its european brethren,and because there are MORE of them rolling around “out there”- Be thankful ( for now) that the West have Challengers,Abrams,Le Clercs, and Leopards, and can kick the CRAP out of the MBTs used by Russia and China

        1. Tactical Fighters and Main Battle Tanks are apples and oranges, and so is a deliberatle low-cost weapon system with a no-expenses-spared one.

          You can WHINE all day, but this has turned into a “pud pulling contest”.
          Trolls *always* cry foul when their argument ceases to exist.

          As an American ,I’m going for the Abrams simply cause it is the EQUAL to its european brethren
          All European tanks are lighter, millions of dollars lower in unit cost, and tens-of-times cheaper in maintenance and repair costs than the M1.
          How is that equal?

          …and because there are MORE of them rolling around “out there”…
          Approximately 9000 M1s were built, compared to the 24000+ M48s and M60s they replaced. Of those 9000, less than 2000 sold abroad — and of the 7000+ used by the US military, almost 4000 (60%) have been mothballed due to the very small (not to mention rapidly-dwindling, and no-longer-manufactured) supply spare parts.
          Of those +/-4000 M1s, more than 2000 have been scrapped or cannibalized — they’re PERMANENTLY retired. No other production tank in history has EVER had half it’s numbers put out to pasture in less than 30 years. Meanwhile, the tanks you mention below presently serve in numbers exceeding 7200 tanks; 40% more Leopard 2s, Challenger 2s, and Leclercs in service than M1s (and the Leopard 2 is still in production).

          Be thankful ( for now) that the West have Challengers,Abrams,Le Clercs, and Leopards, and can kick the CRAP out of the MBTs used by Russia and China
          Do you even KNOW what the physical attributes of the T-90 and Type 99 are?
          The T-90 has the most advanced ERA and APS in the world — not to mention that it’s a whole light lighter and more compact than the M1, and protected by a MUCH more advanced armor array.
          The Type 99 has publicly-demonstrated the ability to withstand HEAT warheads that can pierce over 1000mm of RHA Steel, and it’s also the fastest production MBT ever built (50mph). It has a 4-second autoloader, a 51-caliber 125mm gun, a CO2 fire suppression system, a built-in dozer blade, and a weight 12-tons-lighter than the M1A2 Abrams. It also costs 1/4 as much.

  11. How exactly would rifling help when your primary round is a fin stabilized sabot round?

    The original M1 had a 105mm rifled gun. It was upgraded to a 120mm smoothbore for a reason. The Brits rifled for HESH rounds because they have to be more multipurpose, while our MBTs are build to kill other tanks. Like Challengers.

    1. @phelps,

      “How exactly would rifling help when your primary round is a fin stabilized sabot round?”
      A rifled gun doesn’t interfere with the ability to fire APFSDS rounds (which can be fitted with Slip Rings to prevent rotation in flight, like the British CHARM rounds), or HEAT rounds (which can be enveloped with Ball Bearings to transfer rotation away from the projectile, like the French Obus-G round).

      When these two rounds are fitted with the aforementioned devices, the effect of APFSDS and HEAT — when fired from a gun of equal bore and calibers, using an equal-power propellant charge — is virtually the same.

      “The original M1 had a 105mm rifled gun. It was upgraded to a 120mm smoothbore for a reason.”
      It sure didn’t have anything to do with USA’s military needs.

      The Army already trialed it years earlier, and rejected it; the US Defense Industry didn’t want a foreign gun built on their turf; Congress didn’t want a gun designed, developed, and patented by a corporation outside their districts; and the Carter-era taxpayers didn’t want to spend an extra $1 Billion on a gun that only fired 2 VERY expensive anti-tank rounds.

      The sole reason was Politics.

      West Germany wanted the US to put Rheinmettall L/44s on the M1, and USA wanted West Germany to bail-out the over-budget and under-ordered AWACS system.

      Carl Damm himself specifically stated — and this is public record — that if Congress didn’t buy L/11s, the Bundestag wouldn’t buy the AWACS.
      AWACS was so expensive that the Bundestag had Congress by the balls, and there was no way politically or economically that they could say no.

      “The Brits rifled for HESH rounds because they have to be more multipurpose, while our MBTs are build to kill other tanks. Like Challengers.”
      Building a tank to ONLY kill tanks betrays a substantial disconnect in both logic and wisdom, because for one thing, behind all those 50000+ Soviet tanks that the US Army wanted to duel with in the Fulda Gap, there were TENS OF MILLIONS of Infantry — every single squad of which had an RPG (and anti-tank weapon), while the M1 had no equalizer to this threat.
      Furthermore, EVERY Eastern Bloc AFV has at least some rudimentary anti-tank capability, AND an anti-personnel capability, so that any unit that happened to encounter NATO tanks could dispatch them without having to call for Heavy Armor support. They didn’t put AT-5 Spandels on top of BMP-2s as a fashion statement.
      The inverse was true as well. EVERY Eastern Bloc tank since the T-34 has had HE-FRAG rounds created and procured for them (even if they had smoothbore guns — let’s hope someone in the US Defense Industry will eventually notice this), so that any unit that happened upon NATO Infantry could engage them as well.
      All this was done in order to enable the Soviets to use their time-tested battle strategy — DISPERSION of all forces, NOT concentration of MBTs in the Fulda Gap (remember the old proverb; “What if we went to war, and nobody else came?”).

      The will to disperse forces evenly across the front and avoid decisive engagements (like the “Fulda Gap” Scenario the US Army obsessed over) is also the reason the Soviets consistently made their tanks much smaller and lighter than the average Western Bloc design (M60 Patton = 52 tons, T-62 = 40 tons) — so they could more easily BYPASS the Fulda Gap.

      In short, the Objective Anti-Tank mission of the M1 is base purely upon ignorance of the enemy, and ignorance of how all the other branches of the US military fought as well.
      Behold the M113 Gavin FOV, LAV FOV, M2 Bradley FOV, which all boast anti-personnel, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft variants.
      Also, don’t forget US Infantry — in addition to anti-personnel M16s and M60s — have anti-tank M136s, and anti-aircraft FIM-92 Stingers.

      “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”
      — Sun Tzu

      BTW: The longest-ranged tank versus tank kill in combat was achieved in the Persian Gulf War, by a Challenger firing a HESH round, and the most heavily-armored AFV ever felled in combat was a Challenger 2 knocked-out by friendly fire — from another Challenger 2 firing a HESH round.

      1. “is also the reason the Soviets consistently made their tanks much smaller and lighter than the average Western Bloc design”

        Dunnigan made the argument in his books (how to make war? he published many like that) that Soviet tank design was constrained by their inability to make a better or more powerful engine. They couldn’t field a bigger tank b/c of power limitations. Any comments about this?

        1. That’s a possibility for the early Cold Wars, but they demonstrated the capability to make immensely powerful vehicle engines in the 1970s. Yet, the T-72 (and initially, the T-80) were still built in the 40-ton weight range.

          On a side note, there were also several Western Bloc tanks that were designed around the same formula as well, such as the K1, EE-T1 Osorio, Lince, and AMX-40 — not that they sold very well.

      2. A rifled gun doesn’t interfere with the ability to fire APFSDS rounds (which can be fitted with Slip Rings to prevent rotation in flight, like the British CHARM rounds), or HEAT rounds (which can be enveloped with Ball Bearings to transfer rotation away from the projectile, like the French Obus-G round).

        When these two rounds are fitted with the aforementioned devices, the effect of APFSDS and HEAT — when fired from a gun of equal bore and calibers, using an equal-power propellant charge — is virtually the same.

        So in other words, you spent two paragraphs on a two word answer: “It wouldn’t.”

        1. ‘So in other words, you spent two paragraphs on a two word answer: “It wouldn’t.”’

          I have a habit of using all the information I can to prove a point, so my posts tend to be wordy.

  12. Dude… the M113 isn’t, has never been, and will never be called the “Gavin” except by a very small minority of internet whacktards. Don’t undermine your argument by appearing to be a member of the lunatic fringe.

    None of the M113 AT variants, or Bradley Stinger/Linebacker systems, are still in active US Service, by the way.

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever called the M113 a Gavin. Do I have to turn in my Official Internet Whacktard membership card? My dues are already paid up through 2019.

      1. @Hawk,

        I’ll have you know that signers of the Gavin Petition include Lt. Col. Robert K. Brown (founder/editor/publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine), Lt. Col. Richard D Liebert, Col. David K. Hackworth (too many decorations to list, and veteran of 3 different wars), BG Huba Wass De Czege (5 Bronze Stars and a Silver Star, and the one of the principle architects of the “AirLand Battle” concept), Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore (Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, and hero of the battle for LZ X-Ray), and MG David Grange (3 Silver Stars, 2 Purple Hearts, CO of the 1st ID in 1997).

        They aren’t “Internet Whacktards”.

        The M113 was also referred to by DoD Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz as the “Gavin M113”, in an official DoD letter written to Rep. Todd R. Platts, on February 11, 2004. You’ll have to wait for a link to tis letter, because the original link is dead (no thanks to Yahoo).

        1. With due respect to the greybeards, living and deceased, it’s nice that they feel that way, but it doesn’t change facts. Wanting the vehicle to carry some name doesn’t make it so. And if the DoD IG referred to the M113 as a “Gavin” in some random six-year-old letter, he doesn’t know his head from his ass.

          At this point assigning a name to a terminated 50-year-old program (yep, dead as of 2007, in sustainment only) is not only pointless, but frankly, would be an insult to GEN Gavin’s memory. If you want to name something after the guy, at least pick something current.

          Want an official designation … check with the organization that manages what’s left of the platform, PM-HBCT:

          I’ll note it isn’t “PM Bradley/Gavin”.

  13. Big hair-splitting going on here.

    1. Tanks are only effective in a combined-arms enviroment with good air-defenses of air cover. Ask the Iraqis what happens when tanks lose air cover. The best tanks in the world are easy to bust from the air.

    2. Tanks are great for shock. I’ve been shocked by T62’s. Pretty sure any modern tanks will shock the hell out of an enemy if used properly.

    3. The tank-mounted machine guns are designed to be used against softer targets. A few years ago, I was training with some German tankers – they shocked us when they told us the Leopard tanks didn’t mount .50 cals or an equivalent. Sabot for tanks, HEAT for APC’s, beehives for everything else.

    4. It’s only going to get worse for tanks once orbital kenetic weapons are deployed. After a while, it isn’t worth deploying $10 million tanks that can be so easilt destroyed by UAV’s and crowbars dropped from space.

    1. It also assumes that the rods are accurate enough to actually hit the targets. The flight time is going to be relatively long (from a tactical standpoint) and reentry will be hell for any sort of on-board sensors, so these things will either have to be targeted while still on the orbital platform (most likely) or perhaps actively guided from an external (and therefore vulnerable, both to direct and electronic attack) platform.

      Also, they will be remarkably easy to track, so there will be no tactical surprise to the attack — the knowledge that the attack has begun will be known for several minutes before they start to bear on targets. If it is a geosynchronous platform, it will be even longer. If it is a low orbit system, then the orbits will be well known, and there will just be a scheduled transit when the bird is overhead. Since the whole point to rods are dead weight, phase shifts will be enormously expensive, so don’t expect a lot of dancing around to get over a target at an unexpected time; even if you did, they would still have the same several minutes.

      Rods are going to mean the end of any sort of set base, including an FOB, without space cover to keep the gravity well over it clear. That simply means that mobile laagers will be the new doctrine rather than FOBs and firebases, not that rods will be the end all be all. They have their disadvantages, and are so predictable, they are very much strategic, not tactical weapons. Tanks have nothing to fear from rods.

      Even at that — when it becomes cost effective to put rods in orbit, then it will be ridiculously cheap to send up a satellite killer to take down the whole platform.

  14. RE: (4) …

    That assumes you can deploy orbital crowbars for under $10M a copy, which isn’t likely given today’s level of tech. Pretty low payoff; large IEDs and RPG-29s are much more cost-effective.

    People have been predicting the demise of the tank (to airpower, to missiles, to insurgents) for 50 years now. Hasn’t happened yet. And since there has been a role for mobile, protected firepower that provides shock action since the chariot, I think we’ll have something that fills that role for the foreseeable future, even if it a hundred years it doesn’t resemble our current tracked, turretted behemoths.

  15. I am not saying that tanks are obsolete. I am saying that, unless they are protected from air attack and by screening infantry (depending on terrian), they are very very vulnerable.

    A MBT is like an aircraft carrier – a big fat target without it’s surrounding fleet.

    Besides – the Korean K2 Black Panther is by far the most advanced tank in the world.

  16. all this brit v american point scoring reminds me of the old spitfire v mustang argument of ww2. im no expert on tanks but im sure they both have pros and cons just as all of our weapons past and present have.

  17. The rifles barrel on the challenger does offer some advantages and the disadvantage that a small amount of muzzle velocity is lost due to gases escaping through the rifling. however it is true at longer ranges especially rifling does offer greater accuracy. It would be more of a political than a purely military desision to change from the rifled gun which needs specific UK ammunition to a NATO standard gun (especially one that fires U.S ammunition, which lets face it will be the cheapest off shelf and most plentiful). The leopard and the challanger cannot be compared as the leaopared is not an MBT in the same sense… Leopard is smaller lighter easier to maintain… challenger is heavier harder to maintain and slower… every MBT is made for a specific purpose, the Challanger is superior to many tank in many respects.. but inferior in others. This is weapons technology, no one can say this is better or that is better. Finally i would like to add that the dominating factor in tank on tank action as has been proved in every tank action is crew training. As the isreali’s say ‘the tank can be destroyed but the crew they survive.’

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