Modern Tanks. A evaluation Part 1.
The XXI century saw the importance of the tank reduce for most of ocidental countries. The crise of most soberane states have reduce the military budget to minimal and thanks are the principal victim becouse to politics and militarys the treths are first in ar and then in the see. But for nations like India or China were the MTB are less modern (specially in blindage and electronic) the number is a way of military achivement. Its true that ocidantal MBT are most sofisticade than from other contries, but this vantage only goes to a certain point, and probably only USA have this in mind.
Abrams tank was a response to XMT-70 faliure. The US Army had the knowledge of mass soviet tactics using T-55/T-62 and when T-64/T-72s prototype were more advance than his ancestors a kick and good project was need.
The inovation of the design ( it was the first MBT with Chobham armour) match with several components from M-48/M-60 like the L-55 (L-7 copy gun) make this MBT probably in the 80s and 90s one of the most powerfull tanks in the world, only match by Merkava and Leopard II. Persian Gulf War in 1991 engage the legend with only a few Abrams hit by enemy fire and none lost to Iraq tanks when the 120 mm L-44 main gun destroy undreads of Iraqui MBTs.
But the americans don't understand that this numbers were a mistake. The Abrams was not that good and like other tanks had several mistakes. When the upgrade M1A2 and M1A1 Aim was made with a few combat experiênce and like always the combat simulation training don´t prevent the development of anti-tank weapons like new type of RPG or land mines. In 2003 they descovered that the enemy could destroyed a Abrams in a infantry ambush or with a IED.
With TUSK upgrade the problem was resolved (only Rpg - 29 are dangerous to M1) and in Afghanistan the USMC Abrams combat without any incidents.
Merkava is a "experience" tank. After "Six Days" and "Yom Kippur" Israel make the research and development to a better MBT than the Centurion and M-48/M-60 used in past wars. After 9 years the Mk1 were in IDF at time of 1982 Libanon Invasion. There they were a sucess, used also like APC or armoured ambulances thanks to rear door and with no casualties to the crue (but with 34 Merkavas lost), becouse they were imune to RPG-7 and AT-3.
Israel make a significant upgrade to Mk2 with changes like the now internal 60mm mortar and chain netting install behind the turret to fight RPG that could jam the turret. They think the tank will be a optimized to urban warfare, but after 2002 they discovered that were wrong even with Mark III and is composit armour.
In February of that year the first Merkava (MkIII) were destroyed with a land mine and total loss of the crue, and one moth after another one (MkII) with 3 soldiers killed. But the heavy cassualties came with 2006 Libanon Invasion between Mk II and III (Mk IV were few), were the Hezbollah used several soviet missiles and IED like the RPG-29, AT-5, AT-13 and AT-14 could penetrate the heavy armour of Merkava. And the problems were not only with more old versions.
Of the 21 tanks lost all had armour penetration with some crue lost. For me and for some analysts the time of Merkava is comming to a end (besides the redction of tank crue lost from 2 to 1 since 1973). Of course Israel is improving to the MKIV but it will be a disaster if another project came to ligth in a deccade. Today with the upgrade of for example Trophy Active Protection and Elbit Laser Warning the Merkava can foiled a missile attack of a AT-14, but it still penetrate the armour like in 2010 near Al-Bureij.
Probably Leclerc is one of the most advanced MBT of today, but it is also the most expensive and complex to. In 2008 it was 17 millions (euros) by unit and only 254 from 406 were in service in 2011 becouse of budget cuts. Use by French and United Arab Emirates the MBT is deployed in combat areas such Libanon and Kosovo but saw no war.
Like other ocidental tanks the Leclerc was some brother influence like the 120mm main gun or the 12,7 mm coaxial machine gun but there are some important inovation. The main one is the auto - loading system wich reduce the crew for three but there's others like the own proctection armour and GALIX combat protection.
In Libanon and Kosovo the MBT proved to be satisfactory by the troops and Qatar is a potencial user with 40 Leclerc second hand units. For the most expensive tank 794 units and more 66 recovered vehicles it is a success. With more than 200 units in reserve it is possible that some of them will be in future sell to other nations at 9,3 millions each.
NEXTER end the production in 2007 and the line was closed but the company is still can build more if there's a need. Probably the future in the next 30/40 years will be upgrade the existence units to after 2.1 séries with better sistems and more efective powerplant and armour. If Leclerc figth in some war in future the battle experience will get some influence on the improvement but price will be allways a main concern for french politicians.
Ariete is today the more convencional MBT in service becouse the nation had no experiênce with heavy tanks (only produce the Leopard I and Of-40). The armour is steel and composite blend and like all the other systems were all made in Italy bi Fiat, Iveco, Galileo Avionica and Oto Melara, with the last one manufactured the 120 mm L44 gun. One of the interesting inovation of this tank is the two side mounted electronically fired grenade launchers with smoke or chaff granades (to reduce the radar section).
The main problems were the powerplant and the need of the tank to be with less than 60 tonnes at the expense of the tickness armour (that raise some doubt about survive in harshest environments), but the speed and mobility were appreciate by the military. The production of the 200 MBT end in 2002 with no exportations but there's plans to upgrade the most part of the tanks with a new MTCA engine and al least two types of more powerfull armour. But financial and technical problems block the revision.
Operacional use in Iraq (Antica Babilonia) that last three years in Nassiriya area with participation in Ponti Battle with no major problems (the last ones used extra armour). The future of Mk2 that besides motor and armour kits include a autoloader and hydrogas suspension, is probably the same of other MBT, with a number of them being upgrade and the rest sold or in reserve. Besides Italy have the Centaur that is a very good scout car and with a 105 mm gun could carry support missions in Kosovo or Africa.