Pentagon & Congress

Army general says foreign tanks are increasingly competitive with the M1 Abrams

During a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Army Lt. Gen. John Murray testified that several foreign tanks are starting to match the power of America's main battle tank, the M1 Abrams.

The Abrams, which for decades has been the dominant vehicle on the battlefield, is facing a growing list of competitive tanks, reports Defense Tech. The list includes the Israeli Merkava IV, British Challenger 2 and Russia's T-90 and T-14 Armata main battle tanks.

"I think for the very near term, the Abrams is still near the very top of its class," said Murray, the Army's deputy chief of staff for financial management. "I think we have parity. I think there is parity out there. I don't think we have overmatch."

Murray was responding to a question from Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Marine reservist who has deployed to Afghanistan multiple times, and was pressed on the subject by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a former Army captain who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I would say that the Israelis' — the Merkava — would be one," Murray said. "The [Russian] T-90 is probably pretty close. People talk about their Armata tank and that's still, in my mind, not completely fielded," Murray said.

"Probably the British tank [Challenger 2] is pretty close. I would not say that we have the world-class tank that we had for many, many years. I'll be an optimist and say that we're at parity with a lot of different nations."

Both the T-90 and the Challenger 2 have been around since the 90s, although the T-90 first saw service in 2004, according to Popular Mechanics. Murray believed the T-90 to be close to parity with the Abrams though, meaning that comparable capabilities have existed for at least 13 years.

Russia's newer tank, the T-14 Armata, was supposed to enter service in 2015. While it still hasn't been deployed in major numbers, it does have advanced capabilities including including fourth generation Malakhit reactive armor, the Afghanit active protection system, radar-reducing and infrared masking features such as turret and hull shaping and anti-radar paint.

The Army spent $18.1 billion over nine years on Future Combat Systems, intended to replace the Abrams, as well as the M2 Bradley. Not a single vehicle was produced during that time.

The Army's current Next Generation Combat Vehicle has been slowed by worries that tanks are near obsolete. That being said, Russia and other countries are continuing to make advancements in their armor capabilities.

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